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Whistle-Blower Feels Backlash in China

By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, August 17, 2004; Page A12

BEIJING, Aug. 16 -- A Communist Party whistle-blower who attracted national attention in China by publicly accusing his superiors of tolerating official corruption has been condemned for breaking party rules and ordered to "do a complete self-examination," authorities announced.

The official People's Daily over the weekend removed from its Web site a lengthy open letter in which Huang Jingao, a previously obscure party secretary in southern China's Lianjiang county, had made the allegations. In addition, the party's national publicity department, which is in charge of official censorship, ordered newspapers and broadcasters not to report anything more on the subject, Beijing journalists said.

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A Plea for Honesty Transfixes China (The Washington Post, Aug 14, 2004)
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Huang became a celebrity last week when government-controlled newspapers published stories about his letter along with editorials saying that vigilance by the news media could help President Hu Jintao's government in the battle against corruption. Huang had suggested that reform-minded senior Communist Party leaders would correct the wrongs he was pointing out if they were aware of them.

The party functionary, 52, a former farmer with a middle-school education, captured the national imagination with his complaints, which resonated with Chinese who have become aware of official corruption during the past 25 years of economic liberalization.

But Fuzhou city authorities, with jurisdiction over nearby Lianjiang county, announced that Huang, by denouncing corruption, had committed a serious breach of party discipline that could help China's enemies abroad and weaken stability within. Party and government authorities in Fuzhou reached their conclusion at a meeting Friday about the same time Chinese readers were learning of Huang in their newspapers and cheering him on in a flood of Internet postings.

In a statement laced with Marxist rhetoric and published on an official Web site Saturday, the Fuzhou government questioned the veracity of Huang's charges and called his denunciation "a serious political mistake" that betrayed his "individualism" and violated party regulations. The statement said local party leaders met with Huang, "pointed out his misbehavior" and told him to reexamine his conduct.

"The direct result of his behavior was that it would be used by hostile Western forces, hostile Taiwan forces and dissidents overseas and that it will stir social instability and political instability," the statement said.

"Therefore, all officials in Fuzhou must side with the municipal government" and "remember their responsibility of protecting our territory by showing a clear and strong attitude to our party and the people," the statement added.

It was unclear whether Huang had lost his job because of his letter; neither he nor his office answered the telephone Monday.

The national government in Beijing, which has repeatedly decried official corruption and portrayed itself as a modernizing force, did not comment publicly on Huang's protest or the party's decision to squelch stories about it. But in declarations over the weekend on official Web sites, the Fuzhou government also sought to undermine the substance of Huang's allegations.

An investigation into an illegal slaughterhouse, for which Huang took credit, was carried out by several officials, not just Huang, the government declarations said. They also charged that Huang did not begin the probe soon enough, despite numerous complaints, and was therefore guilty of "dereliction of duty."

Moreover, the statements said, Huang's claim that he wore a bulletproof vest because of threats to his life could not be confirmed. Several of Huang's colleagues were quoted as saying they had never seen him wear protective gear.

A redevelopment project that Huang denounced as a sell-off of government property at below-market prices was in fact a legitimate real estate transaction, another statement said.

"It was only a common economic case, which was painted by Huang with a political color," one official statement concluded.


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