Coal Mine Deaths and The Price of Development

Here is the talk of the town from Southern People's Weekly magazine.  The interviewee is He Zuoxiu (何祚庥), a famous intellectual who had spent a great deal of this life fighting academic fraud.

Here is the question-and-answer exchange with the photographer (via Tianya Club).  This particular exchange was enough to earn him innumerable condemnations.

[in translation]

Photographer: Do you know how many people die in coal mines each day in China?
He: The newspapers say more than 100 people ...

Photographer: Do you trust this number?
He: It is generally true ...

Photographer: This is absolutely dogfart.  It is ten times as much!  Have you seen the movie Blind Shaft (盲井)?"
He:  I tell you that the most number of people die not in coal mines, but in vehicular accidents.  120,000 per year!

Photographer: People die in traffic accidents.  It happens in other countries.  It is unavoidable.
He: Why do you think that vehicular accidents are unavoidable?  Why does this mean that it is not a problem!  Haaa,  you are right when you say that it is unavoidable!  The deaths in Chinese coal mines are also unavoidable!  Because the people of China are too poor.

Photographer: You think that it is poverty and not corruption.
He: It is mainly poverty, and not corruption.  Why should the workers accept lower wages and more dangerous conditions?  The people are not fools.  They cannot help but know.  Why they do accept it then?  Because they can't live wthout accepting it.

Photographer: Then they ought to accept this kind of fate?
He: (If you want to complain, then you complain that) that you should not be born in China and you should not be a Chinese.  Who told you to be unfortunately born in China?

Photographer: Did you not see that China is developing quite well?
He: Yes.  But our China problems can only move one step at a time.  Social development is a process.  If China wants to develop, a certain price is unavoidable.

Photographer: But perhaps some of the innocent deaths could be avoided ...
He: Who is innocent?  What is avoidable?  There is a probabiliy distribution.  He Zuoxiu does not want people to die.  But certain sacrfices are sometimes unavoidable during the process of development.  You hope to have no sacrifices, but that is very unpractical.

Photographer: Do you mean that the coal miners should die?
He: The coal miners should be said to have made a contribution  We should give their contributions a positive assessment.

Photographer: What was their contribution?  They raised the GDP?
He: Very correct.  They solved the problem of the shortage of energy sources in China.

Related blog post: Now Let's Talk about Chinese Journalists' Ethics  Non-violent Resistance