The Curious Case of Wang Yahui

Readers of ESWN may already be familiar with the name Wang Yahui, perhaps the first man ever to have been killed by a glass of water. The story in brief as translated by ESWN:

Wang's Grief-stricken family

According to the Lushan county public security bureau, the young man named Wang Yahui was taken away on suspicion of theft on February 18. On February 21, the police interrogated Wang at the detention center. “At the time, he said that he was thirsty. The police poured some boiled water for him, but it was too hot. Meanwhile another policeman was drinking water mixed with cold medicine and offered the mixed drink to Wang. When Wang drank this mixed, he reacted badly both physically and psychologically. He was quickly taken to the hospital where he died.”

Wang’s family was notified. They went to the hospital morgue and saw Wang’s body. They found multiple wounds on the body. The photos showed bruises and wounds on his back and arms. There was a hole in his head. His nipple was cut cut. Even his penis showed injury signs. This raised many questions with the family. “The public security bureau told us that he was healthy while in the detention center. He was healthy while he was interrogated. But after the interrogation, he experienced a sudden stomach ache and then he died.”

The Lunshan county public security bureau chief said that the police officers in charge of the case are suspected of committing a crime while on duty. He said: “If they committed a crime while on duty, the procuratorate will definitely set up a case for investigation.” He also said that the four police officers have been detained.

Wang’s family are working with the police to determine the real cause of death.

The real cause of death? I’m no doctor, but if pressed, I think I would go with hole in the head. I hear the head is one of those parts of the body we ought to keep from being punctured.

Lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan has also commented on the case:

A reporter asked me: “Wang Yahui drank water and died, but his whole body was covered in scars, could this be another case of ‘hide-and-seek’*?”
I said: Wang Yahui had only been with the police for three days, and as soon as he has to appear in court he suddenly gets ill and dies, the corse is covered in scars, there is a hole in his head, his nipples are cut off, his penis is scarred; he was obviously beaten to death by them, he didn’t just die of a cold!”

When the police send criminals to jail before their court appearances, they must undergo a physical examination. If, after the police arrested Wang Yahui, they beat him black and blue, the jail would normally write this down in his physical report, because they would fear having to take responsibility. As his whole body was covered in injuries, we can see there’s a possibility Wang Yahui was beaten by the other criminals in his cell.

But what can’t be explained is, if he was beaten by his cellmates, the police handling the case would likely react similarly [and report the beating] before the court date. Otherwise, the police would fear the jail putting responsibility for the man’s death on their shoulders. Of course, this is just [speculation] based on what usually happens.

Liu Xiaoyuan goes on to say that the matter should thus be simple to resolve if the police and the jail can be forced to produce their records. But he notes:

After last year’s ‘hide-and-seek’* case, the highest people’s procuratorate and the PSB began an investigation into the entire nation’s jails, and it seemed as if [the problem] was being taken seriously enough. What makes people hopeless is that this watchdog work hasn’t accomplished what it should, with the result that this kind of bizarre death often occurs.

Wang Yahui — who, oddly enough, shares the exact same given name I was assigned by my first-year Chinese teacher in college — obviously wasn’t killed by a glass of water. And as Liu Xiaoyuan points out, had he been killed by his fellow prisoners, it would make sense that someone would have reported that, if for no other reason than to save their own skin. That no one did indicates what everyone was already assuming: he was killed, probably during torture, by the police. Why? He was suspected of stealing sometime.

He is survived by his two children, ages four and two.

*”Hide-and-seek” refers to a famous case from last year where a prisoner in a police station died, and the police reported that he had died running into a wall while playing hide-and-seek. Netizens, and many other people who heard this news were, needless to say, pretty skeptical.

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Rural People “Blackmail” the Government

This is a story translated from this post by Wan Xiaodao. It’s difficult to confirm whether this is true or not, but at the very least, it’s quite interesting. It ends a bit abruptly, but that’s what the original is like.

Translation

A summary of the story:

The Cangzhou, Hebei peasant Chen Tongmei repeatedly traveled to the capital to seek an audience with higher-ups [to report grievances against the local Hebei government]. After returning, the Cangzhou government made arrangements to compensate Chen (they agreed on 100,000 RMB), sort of like keep-your-mouth-shut money, the meaning was ‘don’t go report to Beijing again’.

At this point the story diverges: One country cadre says that Chen suspected 100,000 was too little, and demanded 200,000. Three village cadres say Chen Tongmei didn’t want compensation, only justice. Afterwards, Chen was arrested on suspicion of trying to extort money from the government, and sentenced to five years in prison.

At the same time [Chen was being sentenced] in Cangzhou there were all kinds of cases of rural citizens extorting the government or the courts. These peasants were all sentenced, just like Chen Tongmei.

What’s interesting is that after the Chen Tongmei case the government had tasted something sweet [and didn’t want to let it go]. They started directly consulting with peasants who wanted to report things to Beijing, saying 300,000 RMB to not report [their grievances].

The peasants responded, and wrote guarantees [they wouldn’t report to the Beijing if they received the money]. Then, out of the blue, PSB officers would appear and take the peasants away, saying they [were trying to] extort the government. This story seems familiar, obviously it wasn’t the Cangzhou government’s original idea, they’re plagiarizing the famous Shanghai “fishing method of law enforcement”.

Another story is that when they were being sentenced the peasants had no lawyers to speak in their defense. Their relatives [tried to] help them find lawyers but had their IDs seized or were taken to PSB substations and weren’t allowed to seek lawyers. At the same time, [the government] was also afraid they would continue trying to report to Beijing.

Housing Prices Up 1.5%? “Yeah Right,” Say Netizens

The National Department of Statistics recently published a report on economic and social developments in 2009. Among the statistics found in the report are the past year’s housing pricing changes. In a year when people were literally lighting themselves on fire over housing issues and many complained of skyrocketing housing prices, the official verdict is in:

The data shows in large and middle-sized cities housing market prices went up by 1.5%. Newly built dwellings went up 1.3%, the prices of secondhand dwellings went up 2.4%, and the prices for renting/leased housing went down by 0.6%.

Henan Man Protests High Housing Prices
But that 1.5% figure hasn’t exactly been well received. From this article:

The Statistics Department’s 1.5% yearly increase is obviously lower than what many people have experienced in reality. Yesterday, as soon as the statistics were published, there was immediately hot debate on the internet. One netizen wrote, “Even in a small town, prices going up by over 30% was common last year, and in cities it was even more. A 1.5% increase, can you believe it? Obviously they put the decimal point in the wrong place.”

Others have called into question the usefulness of national statistics and called on the government to release more specific local statistics. Said Beijing realtor Yang Shaofeng:

Because of China’s regional differences, the housing prices in cities in different regions could be relatively disparate. Even in the same city, in central and suburban districts there are high and low housing prices. Because of this, the experiences of people from different regions toward the increase in housing prices is naturally different.

Comments on both original articles seem to be closed — clicking “leave a comment” on the Xinhua stories currently results in an error message — and there seems to be a mysterious dearth of comments on reposts of the news on other sites, too. For example this Mop repost has only one comment (“It’s simply nonsense, perhaps the Statistics Department are all blind?”) and this repost on Tianya is getting responses, but apparently slowly enough for someone to comment: “Why is nobody responding?”

What comments are there are pretty harsh. “Those in the public sector are stupid c**ts,” wrote one. Another wrote, “Actually, we common people won’t blame those in the Statistics Department for eating, drinking, and having fun [on the public dime], just don’t come out with messy altered statistics like this, OK?”

The statistic certainly does look questionable, especially in light of January’s apparent 9.5% spike. A botched decimal point? Intentionally fudged numbers? National data thrown off by massive regional disparities? You can be the judge of the cause, but whatever the reason, Chinese netizens certainly aren’t buying.

“How to Solve Labor Shortages”

The following is a translation of selections from this blog post by Wan Xiaodao. These suggestions may not be particularly feasible economically speaking, but they’re worth reading because they speak to the dissatisfaction that exists in the rural labor community.

Translation

Under the influence of the financial crisis that swept the globe last year, there were labor shortages; nowadays as the economy warms back up, labor shortages have reappeared. According to reports, in the Chang Triangle, the Pearl Triangle, and even in Wuhan, after the holiday there has been a dearth of laborer recruitment. This problem directly affects the development of our economy, and seeing as businessmen and scholars only know how to drink tea and chase girls, don’t know how to investigate [things] among the people and thus can’t resolve this problem, this worker [i.e., I] will undertake the difficult job of showing everyone how to get on the right track.

Resolving the problem begins with these five things:

  1. Raise the salaries of rural laborers. Business is about making money, for both bosses and laborers. Many workers in factories make less in a year than they would if they were farming, so of course they don’t come. Some people will say that rural workers’ salaries are quite high and that even college students can’t compete […] the “high salaries” of workers come from their blood and sweat working long hours and extra shifts.

    At many factories in the South, the salaries are just the local area’s minimum wage, several hundred RMB a month, just enough to live on. Their real net income comes from overtime. The “eight hours of work a day” system is just a piece of paper, they work from eight in the morning ’till five at night and then add more shifts […] until two in the morning or even all night long. The bosses only care about making money, and see the workers as machines, not people […] Aside from rural laborers, only prisoners understand this kind of life.

    If you want to resolve the issue, raise worker salaries […] and guarantee at least 3000 RMB/month. I think if you do that, rural laborers will volunteer to become your “machines”. If raising salaries causes losses, think about how to use new technology to lower net costs of your product, don’t always go taking it out of workers’ salaries. If you can’t cut costs and raising salaries will cause losses, then just shut down the enterprise for good.

  2. Reasonably safeguard the rights and interests of workers. […] I have said before, many government departments weren’t created for us workers, they were created to give rich people a back door. I have spoken with many laborers’ rights defenders, and they’ve said many bosses are actually local representatives, or on this or that [government or Party] committee, etc.

    I have heard from brothers in Shanghai that those with a Shanghai hukou are treated differently from other workers for doing the same jobs, and are guaranteed 600 RMB/month more than the non-local workers [… Also,] in the South, some factories only hire women, with the reasoning that women are easier to manage. I ran into this problem a few years ago in Shenzhen. You should know, among young laborers there are some men who don’t make money; why do they keep working? They have come to the factory to find girlfriends.

  3. Humanize business, show some warmth to the families of laborers.One hundred percent of businesses will say this point is clear and logical, but I think eighty percent don’t do it. Those bosses think of themselves as the workers’ savior, as though they were benevolently giving to charity by paying their workers’ salaries. They are wrong. We laborers (especially the new generation) think this way: we’re helping you make money and not asking you to be grateful; at the very least, you must pay me for however much I work. Without us to help you, you would be reduced to a poor wretch, too.

    [I remember at one job making shoes we had a boss who held our salaries over spring festival because] there was a chance we wouldn’t come back after the holiday, and said that when we got back from Spring Festival there would be a 200 RMB subsidy. We didn’t want that, we just wanted the money we were owed. I had never before seen a boss who refused to pay wages before Spring Festival. [A few days before the holiday], several hundred of us “surrounded him, and wouldn’t let his car leave the factory. The boss gave everyone a bag of candy, which we threw on the ground until the whole entrance was covered in candy. We were very angry. It was already the 27th [of the lunar month], the new year was very soon. This kept up straight until night, when the boss finally gave us our wages.

    […] If you give laborers a sense of belonging in their business, they will naturally love it like they love their homes. But up until now I haven’t found any businesses capable of this.

  4. Deepen reforms of the hukou residence registration system, let rural laborers urbanize. For this, we must rely on our great Party. If you let rural people become city people, the labor force in the city increases greatly, and the problem of not finding workers would be easily solved. In industrial parks build laborer areas, the houses need not be too good but they must be strong and the prices can’t be too high, no higher than 10,000 RMB […] Haha, it seems I’ve let my imagination run wild. Of course, if things were this way, it would lead to many problems, rural people would vie to be the first to get to the city, and what would we do with no one left to farm the earth?
  5. Shift factories towards the interior. If there’s no way to urbanize rural laborers, then move factories towards the interior. If you put the factories on workers doorsteps, you don’t have to worry you won’t have enough. This would alleviate the pressure of Spring Festival travel, and promote the development of the economy in the interior [as opposed to just along the coast…] actually, many businesses have shifted towards the interior, but the situation is nothing to be optimistic about. Because the internal regions are so poor the local governments look at these enterprises like a hungry dog looks at a piece of fatty meat. The town I’m in is like this, [they] have already driven off several enterprises.

[This story has been republished on Forbes’s website!]

Anti-CNN Members Spam CNN Poll on Tibetan Independence

In the wake of President Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, and this CNN poll indicating most Americans think Tibet should be independent, the Dalai Lama went on Larry King Live. In keeping with that show’s tradition of internet straw polling, Larry asked viewers the same question CNN asked Americans last week: Should Tibet be an independent country?

The results of this poll were quite different as the graph to the left, a screen-capture from Larry King’s site, shows. The reason for the discrepancy is quite simple: Anti-CNN forum members found the poll and rallied, racking up a fairly impressive vote count for “No”. Apparently the post also found its way onto Tianya, another more massive Chinese BBS, which helped.

As the voting went on, the numbers for “No” continued to climb as forum members commented on their progress in threads like this one. And while there was little doubt about whether Tibet should be an independent country, there was some debate about the usefulness of this tactic. Several commenters called it “boring”, but others expressed enthusiasm for this kind of democracy. One commenter wrote:

Come on, everybody, let’s jiong [囧, shock] them to death. If they dare to change the numbers then we’ll “Anti” them again.

Although no one on Anti-CNN seems particularly serious about ruining CNN online polls, one wonders if whether, especially given the already-sensitive state of relations between the Chinese and American internets after the Google hacks (and the subsequent accusations leveled at two fairly unremarkable Chinese schools, which former NYT writer Michael Anti called “the biggest joke I’ve heard so far this year”), this sort of tactic might only serve as fuel for Western fear-mongers who claim that Chinese people are going to “destroy” the internet. Lest you think such people don’t exist, check this out. Crazies will find their ammunition somewhere, of course, but one has to wonder what the Anti-CNN folks felt they gained from this.

Elsewhere in Tibet-related news, the Dalai Lama has again shown that he can run laps around the CPC elite when it comes to PR stunts. Hu Jintao may have a People’s Daily microblog (that has been closed already), but the Dalai Lama? He’s on Twitter.

That’s a great example of how Chinese internet censorship hurts its own cause in unexpected ways. As Twitter is blocked in China, Hu Jintao can’t very much set up an account to spread the government’s side of the story. So everything stays the same: the West gets to keep hearing from the Dalai Lama, the Chinese get to keep hearing from the government, and never the two shall meet…?

An Insider’s Account of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

ChinaGeeks welcomes Andy Yee, who you may know from his own blog or Global Voices Online, to our team of contributors! -Ed.

In a recent article, Zhang Boshu, political philosopher and constitutional scholar, shared his own experience at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China’s largest think tank. Continue reading An Insider’s Account of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

“A Democracy Advocate’s Training Manual”

A few days ago we published a translation of the satirical Fifty Cents Party Training Manual. In the interest of fairness and at the request of some Anti-CNN commenters, we now bring you a translation of this, a similar sendup of democracy advocates.

Translation

First item: This egg tastes great, because it is a democratic egg.
Second item: All democratic eggs taste good, there is no such thing as a bad-tasting democratic egg.
Third item: Undemocratic eggs are definitely disgusting, because they are undemocratic eggs.

A: This egg tastes great.

B: Why does it taste so good?

A: Because it is a democratic egg.

B: Democratic eggs are definitely good?

A: Of course! Please see the second item [above].

B: So how is it that the eggs of democratic India taste bad?

A: Well…you’re making a messy comparison there.

B: But India’s eggs really do taste bad.

A: I’ve already told you, please see the second item: All democratic eggs taste good, there is no such thing as a bad-tasting democratic egg. Even if it did taste bad you can’t say it tastes bad, making comparisons with India is messy, you should make comparisons with America, remember political correctness.

B: So democratic American eggs definitely taste good?

A: Of course! Because they’re democratic eggs.

B: But democratic America also has some bad tasting eggs.

A: Please refer to the second item [above].

B: I think Chinese eggs also taste good.

A: Please look at the third item [above], undemocratic eggs definitely taste disgusting, and even if they taste good you can’t say they taste good, please remember political correctness.

B: So what must Chinese eggs do to become good?

A: Become democratic.

B: And what is “democratic”?

A: Democracy is one-man-one-vote elections, separation of powers, the right to own guns, etc.

B: If there were elections, would everyone choose you to be the president or a legislator?

A: Well…hmph! I don’t have that much money, and I don’t have a grip on public opinion, so they can only choose someone else. Whoever has the most money, the most speeches, the most honors, and the fewest scandals will be elected.

B: So do you understand the person you want to elect?

A: For that all you have to do is watch the media.

B: Who is qualified to be a candidate?

A: That’s not for me to worry about, those capitalists and financial groups will pick two candidates and the public will select one of them.

B: So you’re saying you can only choose your own boss from the representative agents chosen by financial groups. How is that democracy? It’s clearly just choosing your own emperor.

A: #$#@%

B: Those three items you said are definitely correct?

A: Yes of course, I learned this in America, the media is always howling about democracy, people are always talking about democracy, and the internet is also influenced. There is no need to doubt the correctness of those three items, if anyone raises doubts about their correctness then they are anti-democracy.

B: Fuck….

Netizen Comments

[Since this one was a little shorter anyway, a few comments from netizens on Anti-CNN. There aren’t many comments on the post yet, and most of the replies are more in the way of personal conversations between forum members than direct replies to the topic, though]

The original poster [i.e. the person who wrote the dialogue] is an idiot. Just some mental ward patient jacking off?

[In response to the above commenter] As soon as you see the word “democracy” you’re always the first to rush out. In the future, be a little bit more restrained.

This kind of summarizing post should be often reposted, let everyone see clearly the face of democracy mongers!

My Thoughts

Obviously, both this and the Fifty Cents Party Member’s Training Manual are attempts at satire and thus, to some extent, attacking a straw man. Obviously, the “democracy” described in this post isn’t democracy at all, and arguing that China shouldn’t be democratic because India is a mess makes about as much sense as arguing that China shouldn’t be Communist because the Soviet Union collapsed. What both authors are satirizing (and, ironically enough, also engaged in) is the other side’s refusal to see reason and their stooping to straw-man tactics in arguments.

The difference, of course, is that the Fifty Cents Party is, by all accounts, a real thing. Where democracy advocates are perhaps just zealous and unwilling to admit democracy’s flaws, Fifty Cents Party members are literally being paid to deflect criticism (of course, not everyone accused of being in the Fifty Cents group actually is).

The whole democracy or not argument is irrelevant until both sides are willing to actually consider the truth. There are good and bad things about democracy, and both sides could stand to learn from the lessons democracy has taught us throughout history: the good and the bad. Characterizing it as either the best thing since sliced bread or a chaotic mess controlled by “the media” to give power to corporations serves no one.

Although I suppose it does serve as an opportunity for young men to vent their frustrations by cursing at strangers over the internet. And who am I to get in the way of that?

On an unrelated and narcissistic note, check out this article on China bridge blogs in the AFP (via ESWN). It talks extensively about ChinaSMACK, which both Max R. and I also write for, and also mentions ChinaGeeks (although for some reason they didn’t put a link). The author interviewed Fauna (of ChinaSMACK), who is insightful and humble as always, Kaiser Kuo, who I should probably be thanking for mentioning this site because he is awesome, and Shaun Rein, who I have called “extremely pedantic” and once suggested should be replaced in his post at Forbes by an empty beer bottle. So, all in all, a good mix!