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Forced abortion scandal takes sorry new twist

(Global Times)

14:47, June 28, 2012

The forced abortion scandal in Ankang, Shaanxi Province has been dealt with promptly, with officials involved being removed from their posts. There was an unexpected twist after the media revealed that Feng Jianmei, the woman at the center of the case, was under the government's watch in the hospital. Her husband was prevented from going to Beijing to seek legal assistance.

What's more disturbing is that local villagers hung a banner reading "expel the traitors" around their home after they accepted interviews with foreign media.

This is another blow to China's image. According to foreign media reports, the banner was supported by the local government. Whether it is true or not, the latest development is worth thinking about. It is not the first time that a scandal, after being resolved, creates new disturbances.

There are various reasons behind the sometimes tense relationship between China's grass-roots and media. Chinese government departments at various levels commonly fear a scandal coming under intense scrutiny. Many departments have little experience in communicating with the media. The way they seek to control information only creates more mess.

Forced abortion is wrong. Local governments must hold related officials accountable and make sincere public apologies. Victims have the right to accept interviews and file lawsuits. Authorities may communicate with related parties to minimize the damage, but forceful blocking will only backfire. Local officials in Ankang may underestimate the seriousness of the scandal and know nothing about the consequences of their petty actions.

Many Chinese authorities and people are uncomfortable with the media exposure of local scandals. Occasionally, media reports lead to tensions. But officials' focus should be on solving the problem, not encouraging tensions.

Blocking bad news has become the instinct of many Chinese officials. When crisis hits, they don't have the proper communication skills to reduce damage and restore credibility. Similar problems may occur again.

Public opinion in the cyber world is particularly unfavorable to officials, leaving them little room to make big adjustments. The involvement of foreign media brings extra tensions.

Public communication is a serious challenge for Chinese officials. Despite their achievements, muckraking will become more frequent in the media and public opinion.

A more comprehensive official appraisal system is also needed. Officials should not be totally discredited when they make mistakes. Otherwise, they will attempt anything to cover them up.


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