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China shames slow learners

November 4, 2011

Caixin Weekly: China Economics & Finance (Caixin Media)
- Clipping Loc. 148-85 | Added on Wednesday, November 02, 2011, 04:34 PM

Web Watch By staff reporter Lea Yu | 786 words

Grades-based dress code draws scrutiny At the No. 1 Experimental Primary
School in Xi'an's Weiyang district, first-graders who have performed well
enough to make it into the Communist Party's "Young Pioneers" Association
get to wear red scarves around the school, as an example for their peers
to follow. But the school came under fire recently for also forcing
underperforming students to stick out just as much, by requiring them to
wear green scarves every day at school if they didn't get into the
program. The color-coded policy made waves in mid-October on Weibo, with
the vast majority of online users condemning the rules. Among 3,000 users
polled on Sina Weibo, 98.09 percent said they felt the scarves did more
harm than good. The Shaanxi Provincial Juvenile Working Committee, the
party arm that runs Youth Pioneers, released a statement October 18 saying
that it had ordered the school to stop the practice. Parents of children
attending the school also spoke out, saying the green scarves could hurt
students' self- esteem. "Changing this policy is easy, but changing the
educational system in China is difficult," said one educator in the
newspaper Youth Times. "The greatest weakness of Chinese education is that
is likes to put labels on students—good students, poorly-scoring students,
problem students, etc.—and then use those labels to funnel those students
into high-quality and low-quality schools." Whistleblower on Weibo
Inspires Debate An anti-corruption official took to Weibo recently to
criticize the government, igniting public debate about whether the
Internet can be a place for dispute resolution when legal channels have
broken down. It all started when the deputy director of Hunan's Commission
for Discipline Inspection filed a Weibo post on October 20, alleging that
Changsha officials had sent in riot police to beat 50 migrant construction
workers in March. The workers were demanding 40 days of unpaid wages. It
was already scandalous enough for the official, named Lu Qun, to post
about the issue, as Chinese officials very rarely speak out against the
government in the open. But Lu took it even further in an additional Weibo
post, by openly challenging Changsha's county party secretary to resign.
Many Weibo users and state-affiliated media have heroized Lu as an example
of public service, saying he took a big "microblog gamble" by putting his
job on the line for the workers. Others, however, questioned whether
officials should be using the Internet for dispute resolution. Some found
it particularly troubling that an anti-corruption official had to resort
to Weibo to seek justice. A media commentator writing in the Beijing News
said Lu seemed to have no other way out. He had posted about the beatings
six months ago, but Changsha officials had made no movement on the issue
since then. Responding to critics who said Lu had wrongfully given up on
legal channels, Lu said he had learned his lesson after trying to help an
old man seek justice for nine years. "I would tell him to rationally sue
and petition," he said. "I believed in the power of truth and time, but in
fact the two things only became farther and farther away from him." In a
statement, the Changsha Public Security Bureau said that a joint
investigation with the city's anti-corruption office in April had found
that the workers had been handled properly, in accordance with the law. A
commentator in the state-run People's Daily, however, said likened the
investigation to Changsha officials being "both a player and a referee,"
and called for an independent investigation. Luxury Cars at Village Cadre
Event Raise Eyebrows Anyone who's heard of the wide income gap between
urban and rural areas wouldn't know it from the looks of this year's 11th
National "Village Leader Forum" convention. There, village party officials
arrived in an array of Lexuses, Mercedes-Benzs and BMWs—and even one
Rolls-Royce. Many of the vehicles' license plates had the same number
repeated, like 666, 777 and 888, marking their owners as wealthy enough to
pay the hefty premium for the repetitive plate numbers. "Reading the
license places, we can easily see the mentality of these nouveau-riche
'village leaders'! After all, they must be happily spending citizens'
money," an online commenter named feng20100 said in a forum. Photos of the
village cadres' cars circulated on the web, causing many to wonder exactly
where the officials, and their cars, had come from. Some suspected that
the wealthier officials may have hailed from China's so-called "star" or
"model" villages—towns that early on embraced China's economic opening
years ago, and now resemble small cities. Three weeks ago, Huaxi, China's
most famous "star village," inaugurated a 470 million yuan hotel, one of
the tallest buildings in the nation. But a follow-up investigation by
Xinhua News Agency found that few of the cadres actually came from such
"star" villages. Most were from middling or small villages, the news
agency reported.

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