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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

China goes all out for stability ahead of National Day celebrations

August 11, 2009

LETTER FROM BEIJING
The Irish Times
August 10, 2009

China's Communist Party is moving to embed itself deep within the
legal structure, writes CLIFFORD COONAN

THERE ARE still a good two months to go until the grand celebrations
to mark 60 years since the Communist Party swept to power in China
after driving Chiang Kai-shek's KMT into exile on Taiwan.
Preparations for that big event are moving ahead apace.

There is much to celebrate. China has come on in leaps and bounds, it
is close to resuming its status as a true world power, the people are
fed, mostly happy and the years of communist rule have overseen one
of the great social transformations of the modern era.

Every night from about 10pm, so as not to disturb traffic, the
diggers and work crews start their noisy work outside my window on
widening the street along Chang'an Avenue, to make sure there is
enough room for rocket launchers and tanks and other military
vehicles which will take part in the parade on October 1st. Here's to
a speedy and successful conclusion to their labours.

Some residents in the capital have a lot more to worry about than
just a disturbed night's sleep.

The period of gearing up for a big national event has got the
authorities nervous that things might not run as smoothly as they
wish and, again, the usual suspects are being rounded up.

Last week, a top cadre called on local officials to stop petitioners
coming to Beijing to seek redress for problems to ensure stability
and harmony ahead of the National Day celebrations.

Petitioners were rounded up before the Beijing Olympics last year,
and it hasn't been a great year for dissent given that this year also
marks 20 years since the crackdown on the democracy movement centred
on Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The idea of petitioning is an ancient one, dating back to the times
when emperors ruled China, but in truth, the long journeys to Beijing
for petitioners are risky and generally futile. Some of the
petitioners are taken to special facilities known as "black jails,"
where they may be beaten before being sent back home.

Zhou Benshun, head of the Communist Part's Political and Legislative
Affairs Committee, told a meeting that petitioners' issues should be
resolved at the grassroots level if possible "to maintain social
harmony and stability" in the run-up to the 60th anniversary.

"Problems can be solved without coming to Beijing," Zhou was quoted as saying.

One of the best depictions of the plight of the petitioners is a
small, powerful film called Petition by the documentary maker Zhao
Liang. The film wowed those who saw it at the Cannes Film Festival this year.

It highlights the plight of these people who come from all over the
country in the hope of righting legal wrongs suffered back home, at
times enduring frustrations that are straight out of Franz Kafka's
darkest imagination.

A stylish and direct piece of work, Petition is critical enough for
it never to be shown on major release in China, although the fact
this kind of film is being made at all shows that the country is changing.

Zhao (38) is driven by a need to document the remarkable
transformation of Chinese society that has taken place in the last 30
years of reform.

"In the late 1990s, China's urban transformation and economic reform
were like a rising wind and scudding clouds," he said in a recent
interview. "Every person living in China's big cities had strong
feelings about it."

The heroes of Zhao's documentary include peasants from the
countryside, whose farms have been confiscated to make way for real
estate scammers, and workers from closed-down factories. He has
followed them over a decade, since 1996, in the alleys and huts of
"Petitioners' City" near Beijing's south railway station.

"I was looking for creative routes, and documenting this kind of
social change seemed a very strong mode of expression," he said. "I
was shooting a few subjects at the same time. The shooting at that
time every day was like stealing things from a fire, otherwise those
things would just flash briefly."

There are also signs of a tougher line on the legal profession. Last
month, the licences of 53 lawyers in Beijing were cancelled,
effectively stopping the advocates from working. The Justice Bureau
said it was because they did not pass an assessment by their firms or
failed to register with the bureau, but the lawyers had all suspected
in advance they would be penalised for various forms of activism.

The lawyers included Jiang Tianyong, who recently defended a Tibetan
Buddhist cleric against charges of concealing weapons in an area of
China where anti- government protests occurred.

Meanwhile, Xu Zhiyong, a prominent legal scholar who co- founded the
Gongmeng legal aid organisation, was taken from his home at 5am one
day to a secret location by police, on suspicion of tax evasion.

Xu had just made an appearance in the August edition of Mr Fashion --
the Chinese edition of Esquire magazine. His picture runs alongside a
piece called "Xu Zhiyong's Chinese Dream," in which he writes: "Every
citizen does not need go against their conscience and can find their
own place by their virtue and talents; a simple and happy society,
where the goodness of humanity is expanded to the maximum and the
evilness of humanity is constrained to the maximum; honesty, trust,
kindness and helping each other are everyday occurrences in life;
there is not so much anger and anxiety, a pure smile on everyone's face."

There are online reports that the Communist Party has now expanded
its reach into all of the 14,000 law offices in China, either through
direct branches in 3,895 offices, or with joint party branches in
another 8,075 law offices, while contact cadres have been sent from
headquarters to the remaining 2,741 legal offices without party
members to make sure they perform their Communist Party duties.

There have been plenty of signs of liberalising forces at work within
the Chinese legal administration of late, especially when it comes to
issues such as using the death penalty less.

However, moves to embed the party deeply within the legal structure
are a reminder that establishing rule of law in China does not mean
setting up an independent judiciary, but rather it means introducing
a legal system that functions as part of the Communist Party. This is
a crucial difference.
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