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Chinese Warn of Civil Unrest Across Country

Erik Eckholm New York Times Service Saturday, June 2, 2001 Communist Party Document Paints Picture of Discontent BEIJING A startling new report from the Communist Party's inner sanctum describes a spreading pattern of "collective protests and group incidents" arising from economic, ethnic and religious conflicts in China and says relations between party officials and the masses are "tense, with conflicts on the rise."

The unusually frank report, produced by a top party research group and released quietly in the past week, describes mounting public anger over inequality, corruption and official aloofness. And it paints a picture of seething unrest almost as bleak as any drawn by dissidents abroad.

The report warns that the coming years of rapid change, driven by China's planned opening of markets to foreign trade and investment, are likely to mean even greater social conflict.

It makes urgent but vague recommendations for changes to save the party and the nation through "system reforms" that can reduce public grievances.

"Our country's entry into the World Trade Organization may bring growing dangers and pressures," the report states, "and it can be predicted that in the ensuing period the number of group incidents may jump, severely harming social stability and even disturbing the smooth implementation of reform and opening up."

The report, "China Investigation Report 2000-2001: Studies of Contradictions Within the People Under New Conditions," was compiled by a research group of the party's department of organization, which runs key party affairs including promotions, training and discipline.

The department is headed by Zeng Qinghong, a powerful and secretive adviser to President Jiang Zemin who is widely believed to seek higher office. It appears to represent an attempt by Mr. Zeng or other senior officials to set a reform-oriented agenda for party deliberations and leadership changes in the next few years.

The report, published as a book by a party press, cites growing inequality and corruption as overarching sources of discontent. The income gap is approaching the "alarm level," it says, with disparities widening between city and countryside, between the faster-growing east coast and the interior, and within urban populations as well. The report describes official corruption as "the main fuse exacerbating conflicts between officials and the masses."

Protests of all kinds have become more common as China pursues a wrenching change from the old state-run economy, a risky course the leadership feels is necessary to China's future growth, and as the public becomes more assertive about perceived rights.

Workers laid off from failing state enterprises have protested the misuse of company assets by managers and the frequent failure to pay worker pensions and stipends. Farmers angered by unbearable taxes and haughty officials have had numerous deadly encounters with the police.

The report was published as a 308-page book by the party's Central Compilation and Translation Press. It was freely available for purchase Friday at the press's office, where buyers were trickling in based on word-of-mouth, but has not yet been widely publicized or sold in the country's bookstores.

The study was intended, its introduction says, to analyze the causes of growing "contradictions" among the people and propose countermeasures.

The somber analysis contrasts starkly with the upbeat messages generally offered in official speeches and newspapers, where every problem is described as nearly solved, and it is unclear why officials broke with the tradition of keeping sensitive findings secret.

The book is at once a call for vigilance against threats and a plea for speedy reforms within the party and government, such as strengthening the legal system and expanding "socialist democracy." It warns that economic development must benefit the majority of people and that victims of change must be fairly compensated.

At the same time, it attacks the notion that Marxism is obsolescent and aims to salvage the party's rule through innovation, not to end its monopoly on power.

Beyond stimulating discussion, the report could represent an effort by Mr. Zeng or others to lay out their own credentials as the Communist Party enters an uncertain period of transition and chooses new leaders. Mr. Jiang and other top leaders are expected to relinquish most of their party and government posts over the next two years.

The report does not estimate the number of disturbances, but its strong language suggests that the scale of demonstrations and riots has been greater than revealed, either by the official press or in reports abroad.

While security agencies have not been able to prevent such incidents, they have prevented disaffected workers or farmers in different regions from linking up, thus avoiding any serious blows to Communist rule so far.

The government's response to unrest has been two-pronged: containment and reform. In well-publicized speeches last year, Mr. Jiang and others said there was a the need to nip in the bud any threats to social stability, which in practice has meant stricter policing of dissenters and tighter restrictions on publishing.

This year, a national "strike-hard campaign" against crime has included a jump in arrests and prison sentences for those accused of stirring ethnic divisions in regions such as the Xinjiang, the Uighur Muslim province in the west. Independent labor organizers have been jailed.

-- Martin Thompson (, June 02, 2001


China opens war games near Taiwan

By Erik Eckholm New York Times News Service June 2, 2001 BEIJING -- The Chinese military is mounting one of its largest war drills in years this month around an island facing Taiwan, according to news accounts in China and Hong Kong.

Military officials in Taiwan and Washington characterized the war games as routine, part of a series that occurs in the area every year in late spring.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry also played down the drills, but a Beijing newspaper said the large-scale exercises are intended to send a warning to President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan, who, the Chinese contend, harbors dreams of independence, and to the United States, which has pledged to aid Taiwan's defense.

Beijing considers Taiwan to be an errant province that must rejoin the motherland. It has recently been alarmed by Washington's promise of major weapons sales to Taiwan and by the public reception in the United States of Taiwan's president when he supposedly was just passing through.

"The main military targets of these exercises will be attacking and occupying an outlying Taiwanese island and attacking an aircraft carrier," The Beijing Morning Post reported Friday. The United States, but not Taiwan, has aircraft carriers.

The games will involve the combined naval, air and army forces of the People's Liberation Army, including 10,000 soldiers, according to news accounts. Russian-made fighter jets, amphibious tanks, submarines and guided-missile batteries will participate in the exercises centered on Dongshan Island, off the coast of Fujian in the Taiwan Strait.

There is no sign that China is considering lobbing test missiles off Taiwan's shores, as it did in 1996.

That caused the U.S. to send carriers near Taiwan.,2669,SAV- 0106020129,FF.html

-- Martin Thompson (, June 02, 2001.

China sacks editor after rural unrest stories By James Kynge in Beijing Published: June 4 2001 19:27GMT | Last Updated: June 4 2001 20:37GMT

Chinese authorities have taken steps to muzzle the country's hardest- hitting newspaper, removing the acting editor and another senior editor after a series of articles about the problems of rural society, newspaper staff said on Monday.

Qian Gang, the deputy editor-in-chief of the renowned Southern Weekend, and Chang Ping, the front page news editor, have been ordered to leave the newspaper following an investigation by the State News and Publishing Bureau, a central government body.

"This is an unprecedented crisis for us," said a senior Southern Weekend staff member. "We have never felt the [government's] pressure to this extent."

Several other journalists on the paper - which has won fame for investigative reports into sensitive areas - are under investigation and may yet be fired, staff members said. Officials have also made it clear that the performance of each of the newspaper's journalists will be under scrutiny. The crackdown reveals Beijing's anxiety over the spectre of unrest in the countryside, where corrupt local officials prey on farmers already contending with stagnant wages, rising taxes and environmental degradation.

"The number of incidents is increasing and the scale is growing. Some protests involve 10,000 people," said a recent report on rural issues by a research centre affiliated to the ruling Communist party.

Southern Weekend offended officialdom by suggesting that in many cases the problems of the countryside were caused rather than resolved by the authorities.

It called on society to be self-critical over the case of Zhang Jun, who ran a group of thugs that robbed banks, shops and taxi drivers and killed 28 people from 1993 to 2000. The newspaper suggested that Mr Zhang had been turned into a monster by the inhumane treatment he received as a young exile to China's gulags.

Directed by Mr Qian, a former senior colonel on the Liberation Army Daily who was stripped of his rank for taking part in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, the newspaper has launched several unflinching reports. Monday was the 12th anniversary of the crushing of the protest.

The paper contradicted the official line in March when it said that pupils at a school that blew up in Jiangxi province, killing more than 40, had been forced to make dangerous fireworks.

Mr Qian has been acting as editor of Southern Weekend since his boss, Jiang Yiping, was sidelined by authorities in 2000 for other controversial reports. pagename=View&c=Article&cid=FT3KRT4MKNC&live=true&tagid=ZZZC19QUA0C&su bheading=asia%20pacific

-- Martin Thompson (, June 04, 2001.

From the websit e< if the US embassy to China. RMW

Southern Weekend Criticized by Party Propaganda Department

According to an April 10th article in the Hong Kong daily Ming Bao (p. A12), the very influential weekly Nanfang Zhoumou has come under attack by the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party for being too negative. Here is a translation of the story.

China's largest circulation weekly, Southern Weekend [Nanfang Zhoumou] has made a great impression on society recently by reporting in big headlines such stories as the investigation and solution Shanxi counterfeit wine case and the Wuhan bus bombing case.

Xu Guangchun, vice director of the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party, severely criticized by name Southern Weekend" at a recent conference of China's propaganda organizations. Zhang said that the weekly newspaper is too avid in its reporting of negative topics. After the meeting, the departments concerned even went so far as to threaten that closing down Southern Weekend was a real possibility if the paper didn't mend its ways.

This "Hot Pepper" is Very Influential

Southern Weekend has the highest domestic circulation of any Chinese weekly. Circulation now stands at about 1.3 million copies each weekend. Southern Weekend, as the weekly edition of the Guangzhou newspaper Southern Daily [Nanfang Ribao] has become famous for its reports on senstitive social topics and on the avant-garde of the literary and artistic world.

Over the past few years, Southern Weekend, along with Beijing Youth Daily [Beijing Qingnian Bao] became famous for reporting on negative news about society that stirred up a big reaction. Chinese people began calling them "the hot pepper of the North and the hot pepper of the South". Over the last two years Beijing Youth Daily became more cautious after having been criticized by the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party. But Southern Weekend did not change its reporting on spicy topics one bit. Southern Weekend makes daring reports on news of great social importance, often going right up to the edge of what is permissible [jing chang da yi xie chabianqiu literally 'often hits balls right down the foul line'] and so has been very much appreciated by Chinese readers. The influence of Nanfang Zhoumou in China exceeds that of even some official central newspapers of the Chinese Communist Party. The newspaper is also very influential in Beijing.

Favorable Reviews from Readers Shakes Up Beijing

These daring reports won the hearts of its readers but have also often been the target of criticism by the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party. Recently the newspaper made very daring disclosures of information in its reporting on the Shanxi counterfeit wine case and the Wuhan bus explosion case. The reports were not only well-illustrated by also contained much first-hand information gathered by the newspaper's reporters. Since the reports the Southern Weekend came out much earlier than the reports in the official newspaper, it became more difficult for the government to handle these cases. All this made the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party unhappy. It has become known that the vice director of the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party Xu Guangchun recently criticized "Southern Weekend" by name, calling it a newspaper that concentrates on reporting negative news. Xu also called for the Propaganda Department of Guangdong Province to put pressure on the newspaper. Xu said that if the newspaper did not change its ways it risked being closed down

-- robert waldrop (, June 06, 2001.

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