Monday, January 21, 2008

It takes a village named Nangang

The Sydney Morning Herald and its Asia Economic Correspondent John Garnaut have reported a storyline discussing the situation comrade citizens in China's rural areas face when it comes to protecting their land interests vis a vis their regional and local governments. And it would seem that China is not too keen to have these matters discussed, what with, among other things, the Beijing Olympics coming up this year.

The storyline starts out identifying a problem, but optimistic of a solution.

On January 16 it ran "Government plans education push to relieve land disputes".
CHINA'S central government has stepped in on the side of peasants against local officials to try to contain thousands of simmering land disputes that threaten to disturb the state's vision of a "harmonious new countryside".

A Ministry of Land official said most disputes were caused by local governments ignoring national laws and regulations when appropriating village land. Liu Mingsong said the peasants had both proprietary and contractual rights entitling them to fair compensation.

The Government would use TV, radio, newspapers, mobile phones and old-style banners and slogans to get its message of legal empowerment through to the country's 900 million peasants, he said.

Mr Liu said his department was investigating a Herald report on a particularly large and bitter land battle in Fujin city in Heilongjiang, adding that he was taking the dispute very seriously. "If the farmers employ lawful means ,then we will provide all our help to address their concerns," he said.

Next, on January 19, came "Prison for activist who talked to journalists".
Details of Yu's conviction remained hazy yesterday, with Fujin officials not answering their phones. A family member told the Herald: "Yu was arrested for talking to foreign journalists. So I cannot agree to talk with you until after he returns home."

If Yu's conviction is linked to discussions with foreign journalists, as family members believe, it would raise serious questions about the integrity of China's Olympics Games commitment to allow foreign journalists to freely conduct interviews across the country. But China also has tough anti-subversion laws, which may have been acted upon in this case.
Today John Garnaut sums in all up in a column, "Smiling logic smothers justice".
Millions of middle-class Chinese are gaining rights that we would normally associate with citizenship.

In the backwaters of rural China, however, the law remains nothing more or less than an instrument of administrative brutality.

After our story, three senior officials from the Fujin government flew to Beijing specially to meet us. The Herald, it turns out, had got the whole thing upside down. "There is no dispute in Nangang village of Fujin city, at all," said the round and ruddy-faced chief of Fujin's petitions office, Lian Feng, sipping on his cafe latte in the local Starbucks. Every city in China has a petitions office, supposedly a one-stop shop to lodge and investigate complaints.

Lian, agriculture bureau chief Du Guoli and deputy mayor Lu Guangliang delivered a priceless tutorial on the illusion of collective land "ownership" in the Chinese countryside.

If there is no land dispute, I asked, why did so many villagers mistakenly believe that there was one?

"Individual villagers do not represent themselves," said Lian in the manner of a reasonable bureaucrat. "The only legal representative of the village is the village management committee and they have never lodged a complaint with us."

"I don't know what farmers have told you but, since there's been no formal request from villagers, we cannot consider the question."

We had been told that one man, Yu Changwu, had somehow got past the thugs to lodge his petition a few years ago. But that wasn't much use, either.

"Yu's request was not co-signed by more than two-thirds of the villagers," said Lian. "His petition is not legal according to the regulations."

Du, the agriculture chief, said Yu's family was greedy because it already farmed 99 mu (1.7 hectares) and lived in a 102 square metre brick house. "He can't say he doesn't have enough land," he said.

Instead we talked about the land history. Yes, it had been previously farmed by Dong Nangang villagers before the Fujin government zoned it as "wasteland", and therefore non-village land, a decade ago. But that didn't mean a thing.

"Yes, they did use it, but user rights have never been proved," said Lian, with his colleagues nodding approvingly. "The state does not need to provide any proof of ownership, but collective owners do."

Around and around it went, in a perfectly logical circle, until the closing submission: implementing the law to serve the people. So, everything they do is in accordance with the law.

The deputy mayor invited us to visit his city again and said he hoped we would remain good friends.

"We give our heartfelt thanks for the interest you have taken in the lifestyle of the common people," he said....
Completely unrelated to the Chinese story, Guambat googled "it takes a village" and noted this "analysis" of Hillary Clinton's book by that title. Professing "we will try to avoid any partisan considerations of particular programs and policies", it then proceeds:
The focus of this essay will be on the book It Takes a Village. It sets forth a clear-cut agenda, and we as Christians need to ask ourselves if this is an agenda that can be supported from the Bible.
And without any Biblical support or analysis Guambat noted (not being inclined to carefully read this sort of thing), the author went on to opine:
interspersed between these long, warm, nurturing sections which appeal to your emotions are political statements about how government should be used to help the family.

Many will remember that the First Lady used a similar tactic in the past to try to sell her plan to nationalize health care.

Discerning readers should always be asking whether or not these problems can more effectively be solved by individual initiative, community activities, and church programs.

Mrs. Clinton has become the most visible, articulate feminist in the world. What she says in the United States, and what she says at international women's conferences (like Beijing, China) hold significant weight. So let's consider what she says.

Many of her other favorites indicate a clear endorsement of socialist programs by Mrs. Clinton.

She envisions a country in which "Big Brother" essentially becomes "Big Momma."

She proposes a system in which the First Lady becomes the "First Mom"--a system in which children are no longer the responsibility of the parents, but become instead wards of the state.

Yes, racism and sexism are a sad part of our American history. But pro-family leaders are not calling for a return to those values. They are, however, reminding the American people that there was a time, not so long ago, when values and virtue were a part of the social fabric.

They are not calling for a return to segregation or Jim Crow laws. They are not calling for a repeal of laws mandating equal pay for equal work.

Anytime someone disagrees with her perspective, the motive is labeled as chauvinism.

Mrs. Clinton often proposes socialist solutions to the problems she raises in her book.

In other parts of her book she also proposes liberal, government solutions.

From start to finish, Mrs. Clinton proposes government as the answer to every problem.

Government is not a village. Families don't need more government; they need less government. In a very limited sense we might agree that it does take a village to raise a child, but that doesn't mean it takes the government to raise a child.

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