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    Reporters Without Borders said in it’s 2005 special report titled “Xinhua: the world’s biggest propaganda agency”, that “Xinhua remains the voice of the sole party”, “particularly during the SARS epidemic, Xinhua has for last few months been putting out news reports embarrassing to the government, but they are designed to fool the international community, since they are not published in Chinese.”
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China 2007: The Year of The Peasants’ Revolt

Posted by Author on January 7, 2008

John Garnaut, The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, January 5, 2008-

Officials acting like feudal landlords in north-east China may have met their match, writes John Garnaut.

It has been 15 years since the then Heilongjiang provincial governor decreed how his most ambitious agricultural project was to be evaluated: “The Touxing Project involves the credibility of the country and the reputation of Heilongjiang. It can only succeed, it cannot fail.”

In reality the project could never succeed. It was supposed to transform 100,000 hectares of swampy “wasteland” into farmland, but local peasants had mostly done that job already. Officials get around this fundamental problem by appropriating existing village farmland and rebadging it as “reclaimed” wasteland, while sometimes acting as feudal landlords on the side.

But recently there have been signs that this stubborn and quixotic agricultural enterprise in north-east China may finally have met its match: the equally stubborn, equally quixotic, accidental peasant leader Yu Changwu.

“Yu is a man of justice,” says the chief of Dongnangang, a village of 970 people.

“He asks for no money. Even when the village offered he rejected it,” says an old peasant, sitting on the village chief’s bed. “He’s persistent and he has never stopped fighting.”

Another adds “we all admire him”, prompting a ripple of nodding heads.

But Yu Changwu’s son, an unkempt, chain-smoking and charismatic lad named Yu Gang, is loafing silently on the floor. What does he think? “My father is frank and outspoken but he’s not a leader. He’s just an ordinary village man.”

What neighbours see as selfless determination looks more like self-righteousness, or pig-headed stupidity, inside the family home. A villager quietly notes that Yu Changwu’s diabetic wife, Yu Gang’s mother, died a preventable death last year.

“Of course I’m angry,” says Yu Gang. “If he hadn’t been spending all that money on fighting the Government he could have bought medicine for my mother.”

The villagers are all dressed in unwashed shades of black, brown and navy blue, without any hint of unnecessary consumption. But then a shiny red car pulls up and the driver steps out, all dressed in red.

“This is Yu’s number two,” says the village chief, as the new arrival takes her place in the room in the opposite corner to Yu Gang, who is soon to be her stepson.

Yu Changwu was first arrested after a shocking letter was posted on the internet in June, saying that local peasants wanted human rights rather than the cherished Beijing Olympics.

He was released, rearrested and released again, only to put his name to an even more revolutionary letter posted online on December 9. It called for private property rights, on top of human rights, to protect fellow villagers from predatory officials in the city of Fujin.

It read, in part: “They have actually become the landlords, and farmers have been forced to become serfs. We decided to change this structure of land ownership, and protect the land rights of farmers through family ownership or individual ownership.”

Two days later, the Fujin city police again hauled Yu away. He has not been seen since. But he had already set in train a resistance movement that will be hard to stop.

Anxious non-government lawyers in Beijing warned that Yu had directly challenged China’s constitutional prohibition against private ownership of rural land. Excited overseas China watchers, on the other hand, thought they were witnessing early cracks in the foundations of Communist China.

“If the movement indeed takes off, it will be a true, bottom-up land revolution,” wrote Professor Fei-Ling Wang, of Georgia Institute of Technology.

The reality is more prosaic. Yu’s Jeffersonian letter was purportedly written on behalf of 40,000 peasants but it is not a faithful account of their actions or intentions. (to be cont’d)

Original report from The Sydney Morning Herald

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