Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Despite China’s booming economy, the lack of democracy and social justice has created widespread resentment in the population. Street unrest is stoked every time there is a new case of social injustice and governmental abuse. The authorities in Beijing might try to put out the fire, but more often than not all local authorities do to avoid protests is censor the news. Cases in point: the powder keg that is Chongqing and Tianshifu’s karaoke bar blast.
In China for the past 20 years local officials have taken care of business, favouring economic development as well as their own promotions and interests. Many actually are stakeholders in the mushrooming companies that dot the landscape. But rural residents have been left out, often victimised by local leaders with no chance of redress.
Now the central government is trying to do something. It has decide to order local officials to concern themselves with the well-being of citizens.
Public Security Vice-Minister Liu Jinguo said in fact that rural officials would be required to spend a month "surveying all potential dangers" in the countryside.
Specifically, they must report on fugitives on the run, local triads, criminal gangs involved in human trafficking and the abduction of women and children.
Liu’s boss, Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang, went one step further. He said that local cadres must try their utmost to defuse social crises and mediate disputes so that rural residents “would have no grudges and live happily and contentedly.”
And if that was not enough, Ouyang Song, deputy chief of the Communist Party Central Committee's Organisation Department, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that rural officials who failed to improve security would lose their jobs or miss out on promotions.
This should come in handy in Chongqing, a city that is turning into a virtual powder keg. For the third time in a month, some 5,000 people took to its streets yesterday, most of them farmers dissatisfied with the compensation package the government offered for land it expropriated in favour of an industrial zone project.
More than a thousand police officers in anti-riot gear went into action to disperse the crowd which reacted in urban guerrilla fashion. One protester was beaten to death and ten others injured, raising even more popular anger.
Late last night the downtown area was still patrolled by hundreds of police and dozens of police vehicles.
The day before on the night of July 4, about 25 people were killed by a powerful explosion which demolished a two-storey building that housed the Tianshifu’s Tianying Karaoke Hall in Benxi County (Liaoning Province). Most of the revellers were aged 18- to 20, out on the town to celebrate the end of exams.
Nothing is known about what caused the blast. News about the incident was strictly censored in the local media. Only the following morning did the state-owned Xinhua news agency report the disaster.
Again fear that the news might trigger further unrest might explain the many hours of silence—especially since safety regulations are known for being poorly enforced and respected even less. Tragedies such this are commonplace.
In the first three months of the year, the mainland has had 1,812 known cases of arson, killing 76 and injuring 24. One of the reasons is that fire exits are often blocked; another is that equipment is badly maintained. .