The Defendants' Summation at the Libel Trial of The Chinese Peasants Study
(Peacehall) [translation] After the publication of our investigative report The Chinese Peasants Study, there was an unprecedented response. First of all, the magazine This Era which carried this report was sold out within one week. After the article was published by the People's Literature Publishing House, 100,000 copies were sold in a month. This is rarely seen.
As of now, including the various pirated copies, there are more than 8 million copies out there! If this book is as Zhang Xide said - "an invented work based upon our standard thinking" -- then how could so many readers rate it so highly?
Comrade Lu Kan of the Literature Bureau of the Central Propaganda Department said: "The Chinese Peasant Study is one of the few books in recent years that really cared about the troubles faced by peasants while being completely practical. It has a tremendous echo with the party. It is a carefully thought out and influential piece of investigative literature."
People's Daily Literature Department director Guo Yude said: "I am rarely able to carefully, systematically and calmly read through any book, but when I got The Chinese Peasants Study into my hands, I could not put it down. Really, I did not just glance through this book. I really read it word by word."
Pao Mingde is the Committee Secretary of the Chinese Social Sciences Research Institute's Literature Study Department as well as the director of the magazine Literary Criticism and he said: "This is a work that reflects reality. It is a work that keeps up with the times. It is a work that explores the Three Peasants problem with both theory and practice. This work will shock people, and at the same time make them think carefully." He even went ahead and described The Chinese Peasants Study as the standard textbook on the Three Peasants problem in China.
Clearly, a work that got the attention of so many readers from the central government to local places could not have relied on "distorting, insulting and libeling" others as its purpose. Otherwise, this is an insult to the judgment and knowledge of the millions of readers.
We spent three years writing The Chinese Peasant Study. What we recorded are the problems faced by the agricultural sector today, the troubles that the peasants encountered and the abuse of power by the base-level cadres in the peasant villages. We recorded the troubled implementation of the tax policy reforms in the peasant villages.
The purpose of this work was not for anything else. It should be clear that we wrote this book for the urban dwellers, so that they can learn to treat our peasant brothers better. They have already made too many sacrifices to enable the development and prosperity of the cities. Right now, they are still being treated unfairly. I hope that more people can understand them and do something to help them. Of course, we are also writing this for the leaders in the central and local governments. We hope that when they make important decisions, they will consult our investigative results. The Three Peasants problem has reached a point that it must be addressed!
We are writers and we write literature. A writer who writes investigative literature does not completely do a reporter's job. Literature is not the same as news reporting. Investigative literature is an art that documents facts and histories. With the basic facts in place, one can use literary techniques. Unless investigative literature is afforded some artistic space, how can this type of literature mode survive and develop?
All of this is just fundamental knowledge. Therefore, the plaintiff and the judges do not have the power to ignore the principles and rules of investigative literature. We have thought about the possibility that this work may displease some people, but we never imagined that the one who would complain would be the former committee secretary Zhang Xide of Linquan County.
We can say that in the entire work, that particular section was the one in which we devoted the most amount of effort. We collected the most solid evidence, and so this was the section that we were most confident about. Furthermore, we did not write about his personal life. We only wrote about the issues during the time when he was the committee secretary of Linquan County. We considered the complexities of officialdom, so we were even going light on him. But we did not think that our generous treatment of him was not appreciated and he actually sued us in court. We must wonder if such officials are being spoiled by our party and government!
Actually, we were aware that many years ago when Zhang Xide was the committee secretary of Linquan County, his misdeeds were reported by the Provincial Committee's Anhui Daily on the front page so that the entire province could read it. Here are the comments: "Even after the central government and the provincial government clarified the rules against corrupt practices by cadres, Comrade Zhang Xide still ignored those rules and continued to break them. Such types of behavior are not tolerated. Linquan County is a large but poor county in our province. The leaders of the county committee and the county government must be concerned about the problems of the people. But they did not care about that, they ignored the rules and they purchased high-priced vehicles (we should point out that he bought a Benz 500 which even the provincial committee members on the rich coastal area won't dare to ride in!). This illegal car even used a special license number assigned to the public security bureau, and therefore it has seriously damaged the image of the party and the government."
At this point, we would like to ask Zhang Xide: "Do you feel that it is laughable for you to ask for 'your personal name' back? As for your reputation, it is the 170,000 people of Linquan County who have the right to decide. How dare someone who has "seriously damaged the image of the party and the county" claim the luxury to talk about 'integrity' and 'reputation'?"
Furthermore, when he was admonished by the party, the provincial party newspaper pointed out solemnly: "The handling of this affair tells us that the party leaders must place themselves under the monitor of the people. We cannot evade the issue, we cannot be arrogant and we cannot abuse our power, or else we will be punished according to the law."
This affair took place before the bloody suppression at Baimiao Town ordered by Zhang Xide. At this point, we would like to ask the Fuyang County People's Court: If there is such an "arrogant and abusive" county committee secretary who is unable to let himself be monitored by the people, then the writer must have the right to speak for the people and use public opinion as the monitoring tool, right?
Everybody knows that the various levels of party and government officials wield power without being restricted or monitored effectively. They share the same resources as the common people, but this is unequal. The way that they exercise their power is also not transparent. Due to the imbalance in information access as well as the lack of knowledge, the people may sometimes criticize the officials in unobjective, inaccurate and unfair ways. Sometimes the officials are "wounded by mistake" but as public officials, they should be able to bear these "wounds by mistake."
Public officials whose salaries are paid by taxing the people and who have huge special public power are obliged to be monitored by the people. The people should monitor and criticize their officials in order to prevent abuse of power for self-aggrandizement while infringing on the rights of others.
The fact was that we did a lot of research and we firmly believe what we wrote to be true. We did not criticize personal aspects of people's lives. If something like this is not permitted, then what hope is there for this country, this people and this party?
When we wrote this investigative report, our souces of evidence were the most authoritative ones. We not only collected a lot of first-hand evidence by interviewing people, we also have the reports from joint investigative team formed by the Anhui provincial party committee, the Anhui provincial government and eleven departments from the Fuyang local committee and administration. The report conclusions were clear to see:
- The burden on the peasants "exceed the 5% as regulated by the central government"; "the phenomena of increasing items and increasing amounts were common" as well as "the failure to return the money to the people had a very bad impact."
- "After investigating the charges of arbitrary fines and penalties and disciplinary violations from the Tienqian Village peasants and the Baimiao Town Wangying Village petitioners, the conclusion was that these charges were basically true." "The county and town issued some excessive slogans for family planning." "The work team sent by the county to conduct sudden inspections behaved badly and seriously violated people's rights, leading to strong resentment by the people."
- In our opinion, the "4/2 incident" occurred because of the conflict that deteriorated when the problems brought up by the Wangying Village petitioners were not handled in a timely manner. The county committee, county government and the directly related departments as well as the party officials in Baimiao Town all bear responsibility. "In particular, police was deployed to resolve some internal conflicts among the people as reflected in the peasants' petition and this caused the relationship with the people to become tense and the conflict to intensify."
- On December 2, 1995, the province-local joint investigative team had composed the investigation report. The report pointed out: ""Tienqiao Village and Baimiao Town increased more withholding during 1995, and that should be returned to the people as quickly as possible"; "Tienqiao Village and Baimiao Town collected excessive fees and imposed arbitrary penalties during the course of the family planning campaign, it should be rectified as quickly as possible according to the rules and the money should be returned to the people. But even up till the day that Zhang Xide was transferred away from Linquan County, those excessive fees and penalties have not been returned!
If this not called "disobeying an order", then what exactly is "disobeying an order"?
When he was transferred out of Linquan County, this party committee secretary was surrounded and attacked by 3,000 angry peasants. This seriously damaged the image of the party and the government to the people. If this is not called "playing an inglorious role," then what is called "playing an inglorious role"?
The ancient saying is that officials force people to become rebels. The peasants of Baimiao Town and Tienqiao Village in Linquan County had nowhere left to turn to, but they did not rebel. They still looked for the party and government officials at the higher level. They did not waiver in their support of the party and their trust in the government. They risked death to go to Beijing, and they only hoped that the good policies of the party central committee and the Ministry of State to lessen the burden on the peasants can be implemented on the piece of land they depend on to survive. They also hoped that they would get their names cleared. But they only encountered the bloody suppression directed by Zhang Xide!
We will never forget that scene: at 10 am on April 3, 1994, more than 100 public security officers and armed policemen came in eight vehicles, armed with machine guns, shields and clubs and faced the peasants of Wangying Village. What a horrible scene it must have been! In the bright light of day, a normal and honest old villager was scared to death
When there are party secretaries like Zhang Xide who seriously damage the relationships between the people and the party, will our people still trust and depend on the ruling party?
We believe that the true essence of this lawsuit is that Zhang Xide is misusing his power to sue and to obscure the fact that public officials have disproportionately more power in actual life as well as the importance of monitoring the use of official power. He is using the excuse of protecting the reputation of public officials to put down public opinion and monitoring power.
A national organization does not have any right to reputation. In civil law, the right to reputation belongs only to the people and to protect people's civil rights during their civil actions. The county party committee and the county government conduct public business, which are not civil actions. They are conducting party and government business. Therefore, their right to reputation is not protected by civil law. The fundamental reason is that in a society ruled by law, it is a basic and sacred right of the people to criticize the government. Only if the people can criticize the government freely will the government be under the monitor of the people so that this may become truly a people's government. If only the officials' right to reputation is protected but not the people's criticisms and monitoring, then who would dare to reveal and criticize the corrupt phenomena in our society?
We must point out that in this so-called case of infringement of right to reputation, we believe that Zhang Xide not only abused his right to sue, but he also severely infringed our proper reputation and integrity through a series of actions and speeches. Of particular note is the fact that he regarded Fuyang as his turf and distributed Cultural Revolution-style flyers that distorted the truth. We suggest that the court should regard this as a violation of our rights, and we reserve the right to counter-sue him.
To the chief judge and other members of the panel: after four days of court testimony, you can clearly see that Zhang Xide presented his so-called witnesses and evidence but they did not prove what he wanted to prove. On the contrary, the plaintiff Zhang Xide became the defendant. The four days of court hearings became the channel which revealed and criticized his suppression of the peasants. A lot of evidence proved that Linquan County under Zhang Xide had serious problems with peasant burdens, family planning and bad behavior by the cadres. They were actually worse than what we wrote about. The most tragic part is that our evidence and witnesses showed by their blood and tears that the plaintiff's suit was not only groundless but it also damaged the normal public discourse and monitoring as well as the development of investigative research in China.
Therefore, we solemnly request the court to reject the suit filed by Zhang Xide and to protect the rights of the two authors for creative writing and constructive criticism.
We hope that Fuyang City which has recently seen a new batch of corrupt officials such as Wang Huaizhong and Xiao Zuoxin, the "fake baby formula" incident as well as the fake case/dismissal case, will be able to rehabilitate its reputation when the Fuyang City Intermediate People's Court returns a seriously considered decision that will give society a voice of conscience and justice!
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