Rule of law in China a long way away

Chinese symbols for despotism

In China, two well-known sayings make despotic officials very happy.

One is “the heaven is high and the emperor, far away”; therefore even if the central government is good and has formulated good laws, regulations, rules, codes, policies, etc., a despotic official may still do whatever he wants. China is too large and the central government is too far away to be aware of their malpractices; while the God who always upholds justice, is too high away to meddle.

What about an official’s colleagues and superiors? Will his malpractices be exposed by them? He can rest at ease as there is another saying: “Officials shield one another.” That is why even the officials in Beijing quite near the central authority can still safely grab land from common people.

SCMP gives a report entitled “Demolition leaves family scattered, defenceless” on how helpless common people are when their land has been grabbed by the government.

It describes how Huang Gongdao, 63, and his relatives had their home demolished without fair compensation and their possessions robbed by the government during the forced demolition because Huang was detained for 15 days for his resistance against forced demolition.

SCMP says, in order to protect citizens’ rights to their land, “a State Council regulation on home acquisition and compensation which took effect in January last year, states that no home should be demolished before a compensation package is in place. It has largely failed to stop forced demolitions, however, because of the difficulty in holding municipal-level officials accountable. Few homeowners fighting such demolitions can win a court order in their favour because the courts often side with government demolishers and developers.”

China has made great efforts to formulate a complete system of laws and establish a legal profession, but rule of law is still a long way away. The greatest problem is the implementation of law. Without a strong independent legal profession, rule of law is impossible. Chinese courts are not independent from the government but are in fact parts of the government. Lawyers are persecuted if they dare to serve their client in a way that displeases the government.

Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao advocate “putting the people first”, but most officials want to put the government first. A Shanghai comedian said with great humour said, “My flesh creeps when I hear the word ‘civil servants’ used for officials. What servants? Do servants ride in limousines while the people, their masters, have to ride on buses? Do servants live in luxurious houses while their masters live in simple public housing?”

When will officials cease to be despots? Despotic officials will be punished if there really is democracy and rule of law. Of course, rule of law should be achieved first, because without rule of law, democracy is impossible. China should make long-term efforts to establish rule of law.

Lawyers and judges should strive to achieve independence and parents and schools should educate children with love in a democratic way, instead of Tiger Mom’s or Wolf Dad’s autocratic or despotic way. There is the Chinese saying, “It takes 10 years to grow a tree while it takes 100 years to foster people.”

The establishment of rule of law and democracy in China is a very complicated task. China has to make efforts to accomplish transformation gradually for a few decades. Great patience is indispensable in the process as turning people with a long tradition of despotism and autocracy into the people who cherish the ideal of rule of law and democracy is a very long process.

Categories: Human Rights & Social Issues

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9 replies

  1. Reblogged this on Carnet Atlantique and commented:
    Intriguing article from our friends at China Daily Mail.


  2. You’ve presented a good illustration that proves many points about uncontrolled governments—always a ‘law unto themselves’ (even the so-called democracies).

    This is why ‘democracy’ as it actually is, both as perceived and practised (often different) is wrong. It is an illusion, a deceit.
    Lincoln defined democracy as “Government of the people, by the people, for the people” and no-one could ask better.

    But what we have in ‘democracies’ worldwide is undeniably “Government of the people, by the party, for the PARTY.” The only exception I can think of is Switzerland which controls its government by Binding Citizens Referendums. If you want freedom, it can only be by having the citizens controlling their government; not by having the citizens elect their dictators.



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