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People's Daily Online>>China Society

A national conundrum

By Feng Shu (Global Times)

08:42, February 10, 2012

Taking a break from their daily work, local officials hold a brainstorming session at the Party School of Fujian Province on one of the hottest topics in the country: How to maintain social stability.

"Society isn't facing upheaval, most incidents have been blown out of portion by the media," said a police officer from Fujian Province.

"What if it was your house that was being forcefully demolished, would you still say that?" asked another official.

In a class focused on finding a solution to the dilemma between maintaining social stability and protecting people's rights, Professor Wang Liping of the Party school ignites the debate. To help illustrate his point that forceful demolition can lead to violence, Wang shows a slide of a farmer in Hubei Province who used a home-made cannon to drive away a demolition team in order to protect his land. The class falls quiet.

Wang's class reveals the tough challenge facing government officials at all levels as the number of ordinary people who complain their rights have been violated continues to soar.

Sun Liping, a professor at Tsinghua University, estimates that in 2010 alone, there were around 180,000 protests, riots and other mass incidents in China, three times the number in 2003.

Although official statistics haven't yet been released for 2011, most people believe the number of mass incidents increased last year.

All the Party and government officials in Wang's class seem to understand that social tensions are on the rise. They have all read the case involving migrant workers in Zengcheng, Guangdong Province, who became enraged after security personnel pushed a pregnant migrant worker to the ground without apparent justification. The mob ended up torching government offices.

The officials have used the now famous Wukan incident as a case study on how to properly handle a mass disturbance. The fishing village in Guangdong Province had chased out government leaders and barricaded their town, but a rare, high-profile intervention by provincial leaders defused the tense standoff after villagers received promises that their complaints would be taken seriously.

"Most mass incidents happening in China these days share two things in common: People's complaints haven't been solved fairly and citizens are more aware of their rights," Wang told the Global Times.

While the government publicly extols the virtues of everyone working toward the construction of a harmonious society, it is also investing heavily in the country's domestic security apparatus.

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