Commentary: Public grievances should be channeled not suppressed 2008-07-08 21:07:14   Print

    BEIJING, July 8 (Xinhua) -- The recent violent protests in China's southwest Guizhou Province showed local government shouldn't suppress people's grievances, but should instead find ways to take care of their interests.

    The incident, which was triggered by the death of middle schoolgirl Li Shufen and further intensified by the local government officials' malfeasance, was not unique to Weng'an County, according to a commentary in the Beijing-based China Youth Daily on Tuesday.

    Conflicts between local governments and people exist in quite a number of counties, especially those with rich mineral resources, it said.

    The potential of huge profits in mining sometimes led to the collusion of corrupt local government officials and illegal local power and organizations, such as illegal miners and gangsters. Under such circumstances, people could not find a channel to seek justice when their legal rights were violated.

    In the case of Weng'an, which is known as one of the three major areas in Guizhou rich in phosphor mines, the conflicts concerning the development of phosphor and coal mines are quite intense.

    In addition, other deep-seated reasons for the protests lies in immigration, resident relocation for construction projects and other issues. These had not been given due attention for some time.

    The government of Weng'an also did a poor job in keeping social order and sustaining public security, the commentary said.

    According to the provincial government's releases, in 2004, Weng'an police was only able to crack half of the reported criminal cases, 40 percent of thefts and 55 percent of robberies.

    Police in Qiannan prefecture, which administers Weng'an County, announced a four-month crackdown on gangs accused of inciting violence during the protests. It also targeted criminal elements in the county and its neighboring areas.

    "I finally found it safe to go out of my home in the evening," said an elderly man after the announcement.

    Up to 30,000 people were involved in the protest flamed by a police report on the death of student Li last month. Police said the 17-year-old drowned, but her family and relatives contend she was raped and killed. The case was still being investigated.

    Provincial Party chief Shi Zongyuan said: "We should not neglect the interest of people nor those deeds which harm the credibility of the local governments."

    "Those government officials who have harbored illegal power and criminal gangs, should be severely punished," Shi said, adding violent methods should not be used to suppress public grievance.

    The commentary added the Weng'an incident should become a lesson on how important it was to channel people's grievances. "We should not suppress it, nor try to cover it up from local people and the governments at higher levels. Instead, we should find feasible ways to provide outlets for people's grievance and take care of their interests."

    It is also important to shift the local governments' role from focusing on economic development to public services, according to another commentary by the China Youth Daily on Tuesday.

    People's interest and benefits should not be sacrificed to give priority to economic development, it said.

Editor: Wang Hongjiang
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