Phoenix Weekly Interviews Lu Banglie
(Phoenix Weekly) The Special Interview of Hubei People's Congress Representative Lu Banglie. By Ma Ya (玛雅). December 1, 2005.
In the recall incident at Taishi village, Panyu, Guangdong, a surprising figure is the young peasant Lu Banglie who was once reported in the media for being elected as the Hubei province Zhijiang city people's congress representative through the "other alternative" method. As a village director who was elected with a high 80% of the votes, he was not leading his neighbors in his impoverished village down the road to wealth. Instead, he showed up for a peasant rights movement in another village in another province. How did he get mixed up in this matter? And what did he encounter during the process?
About this, the reporter interviewed Lu Banglie twice.
On September 16, 2005, the villagers of Taishi village, Panyu, Guangdong voted to elect the committee for the recall of the village director. Seven members were elected. According to the decision by the Panyu district Civil Affairs Bureau and the Yuwotou town government, they would be organizing the recall vote of the Taishi village director on October 7.
At around 11am, Hubei peasant Lu Banglie was observing the scene of the election, and was suddenly arrested by the police. During the struggle, Lu Banglie received injuries on his chest, shoulder and both hands.
In the detention cell at the Panyu district public security bureau, Lu Banglie refused all food and water. He refused to "confess." The only "disclosure" was his "official title" -- representative of the people's congress in Zhijiang city, Hubei province.
At 930pm that evening, Lu Banglie was released. Under his strong insistence, he was taken back to Taishi village.
The people in the village was worried about him: someone had let the word out that they don't care if he is a people's congress representative or not, and he is going to be arrested if seen again.
On September 24, the reporter met Lu Banglie in Guangzhou.
Reporter: How did you come to Guangzhou and get involved in the Taishi affair?
Lu: I left home in March this year to work in Guangdong because I could not do anything back home. Based upon my observations and thoughts at my home village, I wrote an essay titled "My thoughts on the problem of making the hometown prosperous and 'Three Peasants'" and I wanted some experts to review it to see if it can be implemented in practice. Later, I came back to Guangdong. I was discussing with some experts and scholars in Guangzhou and Taishi village's Feng Qiusheng was also present. He was asking the experts about what to do; he said that they have been petitioning for years, but the problems of unfair distribution were still unsolved. Slowly, we came to talk about the "Village Resident Organization Laws" and we began to talk about the recall process. They have read the newspaper reports about me and knew that I had organized the recall of a village director. So they consulted with me. That was how we got to know each other. I gave them some help with the law.
Reporter: What did you talk to them about?"
Lu: "I talked about how to bring up the motion to recall, how to file it in, and the legal steps required to do this."
Reporter: "Why did you want to participate in this matter?"
Lu: "That place was once economically prosperous. They had money from selling the land and they had money from the factories. But because of the unfair distribution of the public interest, the village cadres live in houses and ride in sedan cars while the common people live in poverty. They have to dig for river snails or pick through garbage. They have petitioned four or five years without results, so they wanted to recall the village director. When I saw the difficulties that these peasants were having, I could not stand it. I lived through poverty and hardship, and I am still very poor. I have a natural desire to help poor people in hardship. When they asked me, I tried to help them as much as I could."
Reporter: "Not afraid of danger?"
Lu: "If they wanted to arrest me, let them," he said calmly. He smiled calmly. "I am not blind."
On the morning of October 9, the news on the Internet was that Lu Banglie accompanied a British journalist to gather news at Taishi village, and was beaten unconscious by unknown persons. He may have died.
On the evening of October 10, Phoenix Weekly went through many channels and verified that Lu Banglie was alive and was taken back to Zhijiang (Hubei) by the Panyu people's congress.
On the night of October 11, Lu Banglie was interviewed over the telephone by our reporter.
He told the reporter that he had no contact with Taishi village between October 2 through 7. On October 8, The Guardian's Benjamin Joffe-Walt looked him up.
Reporter: "Benjamin said in his report that it was you who insisted that you enter the village with him. Is this true?"
Lu: "Yes. I saw a foreign reporter ignoring his own personal safety to learn the truth at Taishi village. As a Chinese person, I ought to share any trials and tribulations. I wanted to continue to monitor the development of the matter. For example, would the October 7 recall be aborted? Also about the media attention and the interviewing at the village. I was going to get out on October 10."
Reporter: "Was that what you thought, or did someone help you analyze it?"
Lu: "I thought of it."
Reporter: "Why were you so persistent?"
Lu: "People were being treated savagely. My conscience pangs me. I have already offered some legal help to them on recalling the village director. I might as well as help them all the way through."
Reporter: "Could there be this consideration that you are looking for a sense of accomplishment or trying to be an individual hero?"
Lu: "I had no concern about my personal safety. From my conscience, I wanted to help the good people. Whether I am hero or villain is something else."
Reporter: "Could it that under the circumstances, you got very excited and emotional and you did not want to let go?"
Lu: "Scholars and lawyers go to the village and get assaulted. I feel that there is no solution for the villagers if any outsiders can properly get in to help but cannot leave. I don't care if I have to give up my life, but I want to see if I can change things. I know that the risks are very high, but if something goes wrong, so be it."
Reporter: "Did you consider your mother and daughter?"
Lu: "I purchased an insurance policy. If something goes wrong, I can only use money to make it up to them."
Reporter: "When you were interviewed by the outside, you said that you will continue to pay attention to this matter and provide help to the peasants."
Lu: "I will definitely provide legal help."
Reporter: "Are you sure that this thinking is clear-minded as opposed to brash and blind?"
Lu: "I am definitely not blind. I thought that to promote grassroots democracy in China, it is hard to bring it about without paying the price with lives."
Reporter: "Is this what you thought up? Or perhaps someone else influenced you?"
Lu: "This is what I came to after thinking about it for a long time. I have definitely come across many ideas, and I analyzed them to come up with this. I feel that China can advance only if there is democracy."
Reporter: "How much do you understand about democracy?"
Lu: "First of all, democracy respects the right of the people to elect and recall. That is the most basic. As for the deeper democracy, we can slowly think, explore and learn ... when government officials mistreat common people and go unpunished, how can there be any development?"
Reporter: "Among 1,502 voters at Taishi village, 584 motioned to recall. That is a minority. If the people in the village were divided into two or more camps, do you understand how the opposition and division came about? You listened to one side of the story and you immediately felt that they were the weaker side who were taken advantage of and you wanted to bring about justice. But do you understand the entire history of the matter? Have you listened to what the other side has to say? Without a full understanding, you cannot determine soberly whether your conclusions were right or not?
Lu: "I feel that I saw it all too clearly. Sometimes, there is nothing that can be done. I had no choice, because my conscience would not let me go. I work completely according to my conscience."
Reporter: "When the British reporter looked you up, how did you feel?"
Lu: "I was very moved. In this time, the British media can still go into this village to look at the real conditions there. I was very moved, so I volunteered to lead him in."
Reporter: "You did not consider your own safety at all?"
Lu: "What is there to consider? Once you get there, there is no way to return." When he said this, he laughed. His laughter was very innocent.
Reporter: "What do you plan to do next?"
Lu: "I will continue to explore how to fight for democracy."
Reporter: "You can't even make a living now, so how can you discharge any responsibility to society?"
Lu: "Yesterday, the Zhijiang people's congress standing committee told me to do my job as a people's congress representative. I said, 'You can reply to the proposal that I wrote.' I wrote a proposal for handicapped persons, and the Handicapped Persons Association replied that they will offer subsidies of 10 yuan per person per month. However, it has not been implemented yet after two years. What has your people's congress's supervising office been doing?"
Reporter: "People want you to be a good people's congress representative, and it was an earnest suggestion Why do you have to adopt an attitude of accusation and opposition? Why don't you reply in an earnestly cooperative manner?"
Lu: "I am fighting for the interests of the handicapped people. How can that be oppositional? The people's congress representative is supposed to supervise and monitor the government."
I put the telephone down. I thought about it a long time. The only fortunate thing is that Lu Banglie is still alive. Otherwise, he would leave behind a 7-year-old child and a mother who is more than 80 years old. That would only be a family tragedy. But for the country which is at a critical moment in history, there needs to more people with conscience who can contribute sober observations and rational analyses.
Related link: Lu Banglie at Baoyuesi Village