The Hunan Traffic Police Officer
Preface: You ask which is my favorite Chinese media outlet. Well, the answer would be Southern Weekend ordinarily as you can tell from the number of investigative reports that I have translated. Increasingly, I am more and more impressed by Youth Weekend.
While it is true that Southern Weekend can provide us with those unique breakthrough investigative reports, it is also obvious many of their reports are dead-ends. As interesting as the cases are, nothing happens afterwards because follow-ups are blocked, precisely because the original reports were socially influential. Sometimes, reporters such as Fu Jianfeng will discuss the cases in their own blogs.
More recently, Youth Weekend has developed a habit of following up with interviews of reporters (such as those at Southern Weekend) about their experiences during the reporting of major cases. Not only does Youth Weekend inform us about those cases, but they inform us about the circumstances under which Chinese reporters work.
Maybe the applause from this website is the 'kiss of death,' but I believe that this is a unique moment in which tribute must be paid to a media outlet which exhibits moral courage.
In the following, a Southern Weekend article is presented and then the follow-up interview with the reporter by Youth Weekend is presented. Even if Southern Weekend cannot follow up on its articles, we do fine if we continue to have the likes of Youth Weekend. And then those articles will be propagated through ReporterHome.com and other media-related websites.
(Southern Weekend) By Cheng Gong (成功). October 2, 2006.
A punch landed straight on the temple of Wang Zhihong. The cap on the head of this traffic police officer flew more than a meter away.
"I was dazed by the blow," he said. "Who would have thought that government workers would hit police officers!" Prior to this, Wang Zhihong had been a militia police officer for more than ten years. He was just promoted from a first lieutenant to a cadre and he is now with the Hunan province traffic police headquarters, Cili squadron.
The attackers grabbed Wang's shoulder blades and he was completely exposed. "Thump, thump, thump ..." The punches fell upon his chest, stomach and face. Wang Zhihong struggled and yelled, "You must not assault a police officer. Everything here is under video surveillance!" A man wearing a white jacket raced over and determined that there was no video camera. He turned around and yelled, "Never mind. Keep the beating up!"
The assault continued for two minutes. During the period, the black Buick stayed quietly on the roadside and the Hunan province Cili county party secretary Liu Hua sat inside.
The assault on the police officer was initiated by a routine inspection.
On the morning of October 22, 2006, the expressway traffic police of the Cili squadron assigned Wang Zhihong and colleague Yu Zhixiong to work at the West Cili toll booths. Their main targets were military vehicles -- the Cili squadron has been established for more than a year and they have come across more than a dozen cases of fake military vehicles. Ordinarily, there are two types of "fakes" -- the various local vehicles that were showing regular military license plates and the totally fake military plates which are the most common. At various expressway tool booths, there are traffic police or inspectors; their job is to spot the fake military vehicle trying to avoid paying the toll.
At 11:17, a Buick car with license plate Guangdong K 28201 aroused the attention of Wang Zhihong. He indicated the car to stop. The driver Dai Zhengfei showed the "military permit," but it was only a local one. According to the regulations, a military vehicle must have a military vehicle permit, a military driver's license, a military officer identification and a military mission permit.
But Dai Zhengfei was displeased and he yelled: "This is the Cili country party secretary's car. You don't have to inspect this!"
"At the time, I explained to him that this was a routine inspection," said Wang Zhihong. "At that moment, a middle-aged man in a suit came out of the Buick and he complained, 'What's the problem? Why are you inspecting my car? What does this mean?'" Afterwards, this middle-aged man was identified as Cili county party secretary Liu Hua.
According to informed sources, Liu Hua had complained about a clash with the Tienmen traffic police squadron in April this year. At that time, the chauffeur Dai Zhengfei was driving the same Buick vehicle and he almost hit a traffic police officer at the Changzhang expressway Tienmen toll booth. After inspecting Dai Zhengfei's local driver's license, the traffic police determined that he was not qualified to drive a military vehicle and he requested Dai to be interrogated by the squadron. However, Dai refused and there was physical contact during the dispute. Later on, the matter was resolved upon mediation.
According to Wang Zhihong, he warned Dai Zhengfei that he did not meet the requirements for driving a military vehicle and therefore this has to be reported to the relevant departments. When party secretary Liu heard what the traffic police officer said, he took out his mobile telephone and got back into his Buick.
At 11:30, Wang Zhihong made a call to the military advisor of the Zhangjiajie military district and confirmed with the relevant department -- Guangzhou K28201 was a license plate belonging to the Cili county militia armed division assigned for use by the county party secretary.
But even as Wang Zhihong made the verification and was ready to let the car proceed, danger had suddenly descended from behind.
At 11:36, a person wearing dark crimson clothing arrived and went in to sit next to Liu Hua in the back of the car. Although Liu Hua denied ever seeing this man, the Cili toll booth monitoring cameras recorded the process.
Two minutes later, a jeep with license place Guangdong K 38246 and a black sedan arrived. Six men jumped out, led by a tall and strong man. Later on, it was established that this was the Cili county armed militia force director Ouyang Jingping and the rest of the men were armed police officers.
Dai Zhengfei and the man in the crimson red clothes went up to meet them. Dai Zhengfei led Ouyang Jingping towards Wang Zhihong and pointed at him. A man in a grey suit behind Ouyang Jingping -- later identified to be Shu Limin, the chauffeur of Ouyang Jingling -- rushed at Wang Zhihing and swiped the driver's license off Wang's hands.
Then the assault began -- the monitoring video recorded the entire process of the assault on the law enforcer, including the fact that vehicle in which the county party secretary sat had its windows rolled up and showed no response.
"Who asked you to inspect our county party secretary's car?" Ouyang Jingping said. "We are with the armed police division. Let us see if you dare to inspect our cars? If you traffic police people don't understand, go back and read your documents!"
Afterwards, a man dressed in black made a sign and everybody entered the jeep and left after the county party secretary's car.
The unconscious Wang Zhihong was taken to the Cili county People's Hospital. The diagnosis was that the traffic officer suffered a mild concussion plus multiple soft tissue injuries all over his body. He was also mentally shocked -- on the next morning, Wang Zhihong got an anonymous telephone call: "Do not magnify this affair. You don't know your way around Cili. If you are careless, you may lose your life!" He immediately informed his squadron. The relevant department traced the call to a public telephone booth in Changsha. Afterwards, Wang Zhihong received two more threatening telephone calls.
On October 25, the case file about "What kind of county secretary party is this? How to realize social harmony?" was presented to Li Jiang. Li Jiang is a member of the Hunan province party standing committee, province political law committee secretary and public security bureau director. Li Jiang immediately ordered an investigation to verify the evidence.
Concerning the armed militia workers assaulting the traffic police officer, neither Liu Hua nor Ouyang Jingping denied it. But Ouyang Jingping said that it was the result of passion and over-excitement. Liu Hua believes that the attackers were "of low quality who did not deal with the matter appropriately." Liu Hua denied that he called in the armed militia workers to effect the assault. He and Ouyang Jingping denied knowledge of the anonymous telephone calls.
"I disagree with the Internet opinion that 'the armed militia police is a private armed force of the country party secretary,'" said Ouyang Jingping. "Our party will not let our cadre leaders think and act like that." Liu Hua agreed and he said, "We are not concerned about what they say on the Internet."
On October 27, the Cili country armed militia corps sent out a political commissar as a representative and communicated with Wang Zhihong's squadron with an offer of 10,000 RMB to put an end to this affair. "This is good when the other party sends someone to offer an apology," according to a veteran traffic police officer. Previously, a local traffic officer stopped the car of a local leader and ended up having to bring good wine and cigarettes over to apologize.
Some colleagues of Wang Zhihong have advised him: "Don't be so earnest on your job. When you stop a car, you better be careful about who is inside." Wang Zhihong's partner Yu Zhixiong also felt aggrieved -- he grew up in a rural mountainous region and when he was assigned to the Cili squadron, he had never come into contact with county leaders. "This may be why my political sensitivity is so low," said Yu Zhixiong.
The car with the county party secretary is stopped.
The cap of the traffic police officer
(with the national seal on it) went flying more than 1 meter away
During the two-minute assault,
the county party secretary sat passively in his Buick
Without this monitoring video tape,
what could the traffic police officer say?
(Youth Weekend) By Yan Xueling (颜雪岭). November 9, 2006.
On November 2, Southern Weekend published "Hunan traffic police inspected the county secretary's car and was brutally assaulted" about the inside story of how a traffic police officer was assaulted, involving sensitive keywords such as county party secretary, police officers and fake military vehicle plates.
The reporter Cheng Gong revealed the story behind this report: after he received the report from the battered traffic police officer Wang Zhihong, Cheng Gong went to meet the officer in secret in Changsha and obtained an important piece of evidence -- the video of the assault. When Cheng Gong arrived in Cili county, he received the assistance of a "mysterious" informant and learned about the proliferation of fake military license plates in Cili county and how some departments even count on them to make money. After some "bluffs" made to the county party secretary, Cheng Gong finally managed to interview the principals and obtained important information.
The article "Hunan traffic police inspected the county secretary's car and was brutally assaulted" showed: on October 22, expressway Cili squadron traffic officer Wang Zhihong was at his post at the West Cili toll booth when a Buick car with license plate Guangzhou K28201 caught his attention. He stopped the car, which was the vehicle assigned by the Cili armed militia police department to county party secretary Liu Hua. The driver Dai Zhengfei showed his "military vehicle license permit." But the driver only had a local driver's permit. According to regulations, a military vehicle must have four things -- a military vehicle license permit, a military vehicle driver's license, a military personnel identification and an assignment sheet. So Wang Zhihong checked with the Zhangjiajie military district officer that Guangzhou K28201 was indeed assigned by the Cili armed militia division for use by county party secretary Liu Hua. Just as Wang Zhihong was ready to release the car, two vehicles raced to the scene and several men jumped out. Upon indications by the driver Dai Zhengfei, the men rushed towards Wang Zhihong and assaulted him. The monitoring video tapes showed that they were led by Cili county armed militia division director Ouyang Jingping and the other men were armed militia workers.
The Person: Cheng Gong, 29 years old, news reporter for Southern Weekend
Some people will say that my reporting was inflammatory based upon their subjective perceptions. I cannot avoid that. But I will state boldly with assurance -- my narration of the facts was fair and objective.
When I was told that the assaulted traffic officer Wang Zhihong would offer information, I immediately went to meet him in Changsha. We did not meet in Cili due to Wang Zhihong's concerns: Cili is a small place and a meeting there would arouse the suspicion of county part secretary Liu Hua and the people from the armed militia division. Besides, the expressway traffic police belongs to the Hunan province public security bureau which is primarily based in Changsha.
We met on October 28. I settled in a Changsha hotel. Wang Zhihong arrived with his relatives and traffic police friends. He brought me an important piece of evidence -- the entire process of the assault on video.
This video was something that neither Liu Hua nor Ouyang Jingping imagined. When Wang Zhihong was being assaulted, he cried out aloud to a patrol car on the side: "Yu Zhixiong, get the video camera!" At the time, his colleague Yu Zhixiong was in the car but unaware of what was going on. Wang Zhihong only wanted to scare away his attackers. A man wearing a white jacket went over to check and saw that Yu Zhixiong did not have a video camera. That was why the assault continued. But the attackers did not realize that there was a video camera over the toll lane and there was another high-altitude monitoring video camera further down. The entire assault was therefore recorded.
After being assaulted, Wang Zhihong grabbed the videotapes and made many compact discs as evidence. It was relatively easy to get the videotapes because the expressway Cili squadron was a provincial organization not under the control of the Cili county government.
The assault occurred on October 22, which was 6 days before our meeting. But when Wang Zhihong recalled the incident, he was still very excited. He showed me the video on a notebook computer. As he narrated the incident, his face was flushed and his speech was fragmented and trembling. The images showed that two persons held up Wang Zhihong's arms while another person applied punches and kicks. Wang Zhihong looked like a little lamb ready for the slaughter. A man (later established to be the armed militia division commander Su Liming) went up to Wang, grabbed the license and punched Wang on the temple. Wang's police cap flew far away. I was shocked to see the police cap carrying the national emblem being assaulted in that manner.
Due to the distance, I cannot see their faces clearly. But I can see their clothes and actions. Later on, I checked with the people with the armed militia division and they admitted that it was them.
When I first arrived at Cili county in Zhangjiajie, I saw people selling newssheets about underground lottery betting. I heard from the locals that underground lottery betting is highly developed. The economy of the county is basically stagnant, without any industrial developments.
The armed militia division uses fake military vehicle licenses. Before interviewing Liu Hua and Ouyang Jingping, my secret informant provided me with this important piece of information.
I met the informant secretly. We arrived separately at a suite in a Cili teahouse, and then we left separately. He is a local and he is afraid of retaliation. I cannot disclose the identity of this informant, beyond saying that he is a local traffic police officer who understands the situation in Cili.
Of the two vehicles which carried the people who assaulted Wang Zhihong, one of them had license plate Guangdong K38246. According to this informant, this is a fake military license. According to the military vehicle license regulation, Hunan province military vehicles should have license plate number that start with Guangdong K2, not Guangdong K3. In the local area, fake military license plates proliferate because many people want to skip the toll fares through getting military license plates via friends or other channels. Some departments even issue fake military license plates for income. During the past year, Cili county found several dozens of cases of fake military license plates.
When I arrived at the office of the county party secretary, I saw that there was a list of travel schedules for the leaders and the contact telephone numbers of their secretaries. It seems that Liu Hua was out in the rural area. So I called his secretary. It was 3pm in the afternoon. His secretary was impatient and asked me to write an official letter to request an interview. I said that I had already arrived and it would be more direct to just meet. Besides, this matter affected the principal leaders of the county and we needed to communicate carefully. So he said that he had to consult with his supervisor. At 8pm in the evening, he called to say that Liu Hua was at a meeting in Zhangjiajie and everything would have to wait.
So I bluffed -- "The article will be published one way or the other. Since your supervisor is the principal, it would be disadvantageous for him not to speak out. You must therefore carefully consider whether you can withstand the potential political consequences of this report." That pitch was quite effective. He said that he would have to consult again. Two hours later, he called me to say that he has arranged for me to meet with the armed militia division director Ouyang Jingping the next day.
After meeting with Ouyang Jingping, I asked to meet with the county party secretary. The secretary said that his boss was out of town on business. But my informant told me that Liu Hua was holding meetings in town. The secretary advised me not to publish the article, because this was a sensitive period during the Communist Party Congress, but I had idea why this should be sensitive. So I tried the same trick by bluffing him again. I said that I didn't know the details. If the county leader would not meet with me to explain what happened, then I was unable not to hold up the article. So he finally gave me the mobile phone number for Liu Hua. I kept calling Liu Hua and I got through at 830pm.
Liu Hua neatly shoved away the responsibility. He said the armed militia workers assaulted Wang while he himself was sitting in the car unaware of what was going on. Only after the car left did he learned about it. He said that he cooperated with the inspection. But because the detention was too long, he asked the armed militia personnel to come over to "mediate."
I told me about the Internet commentary about how the armed militia division has become the private protection force. Liu Hua said that he did not care about the Internet which gives him no pressure. He said: "We need to have means that the Party will accept."
Prior to this, I had some worries. The economy in Cili is stagnant and I was worried that their concepts about legality were weakened. If they can even assault police officers, then what about a reporter such as myself?
During the conversations with the secretary of Liu Hua, I was asked several times about where I was staying. I answered: "That is none of your business. I have my own arrangements."
Then I went with Liu Hua to the armed militia division. At a big office on the second floor, I met with Ouyang Jingping. He wore a military uniform (three stars, two red, crew cut, 1.75 meters tall, fat and stout, a martial arts practitioner by sigh, more than a dozen years in the military).
At the time, there were not many media (including local media) reporting on this case. But the Internet has already disclosed this matter. According to Wang Zhihong, some of his colleagues probably did this because they felt strongly for him. Ouyang Jingping said that the Internet narratives were basically correct, but the case was no big deal. They have communicated with Wang Zhihong's traffic police squadron and sent over the armed militia division's political commissar to apologize and bring 10,000 RMB which should be quite satisfactory. He emphasized that the traffic police cannot stop and inspect a military vehicle and therefore Wang Zhihong was wrong first and besides he held Liu Hua for more than twenty minutes.
But Wang Zhihong was not satisfied. To beat someone up without offering an apology in person and paying just 10,000 RMB was no different from doing the same to a beggar. He thought that this affair caused him a great deal of mental anguish and it cannot be just brushed over.
Wang Zhihong said that he was under a great deal of pressure. The traffic police squadron wanted this affair to be over and done with. The concerns of his bosses were: the squadron will still have to work with the Cili government. If this affair gets blown up, it will affect the political accomplishments of the Cili leaders. If there is a lawsuit, the costs will be high and the pressure will be great.
So we confirmed several issues with Ouyang Jingping. Is the county party secretary entitled to a military vehicle? He is not a current military officer and he is not on military duty. Ouyang Jingping said that the county party secretary is also the first secretary of the armed militia division and therefore he is entitled to do so. Does such a regulation exist? He said that this was uncertain -- one can say that it does or that it does not. It depends on the relationship between the country party committee and the armed militia division. If the relationship is good, then Liu Hua can be assigned a military vehicle.
We also questioned whether Liu Hua's chauffeur is licensed to drive a military vehicle. In order to operate a military vehicle, one must have a license. Ouyang Jingping's explanation is that very few drivers in the armed militia division have military driver's licenses. In order to accomplish the missions, persons with local driver's licenses have to do. I asked him: "I have a driver's license. Can I drive your military vehicle?" He got mad: "According to what you say, our armed militia division will cease to function." He was getting combative.
Based upon what the informant told me, I then checked with him: Their jeep with license plate K38246 carried a fake military license. According to military license plate regulations, Hunan province military vehicles should have license plate numbers beginning with K2. He was taken aback and mumbled that it was true. He admitted that there were many fake military license plates in the area.
As we departed, Ouyang Jingping said that he hoped that we would not publish anything. If we do, it must be fair and unbiased.
Liu Hua complained that there has been a serious problem with the expressway traffic police holding up cars. Apart from himself, the armed militia division director Ouyang Jingping has been held up, and so has a Zhangjiajie military district leader ... the armed militia division has longstanding complaints about the work of the expressway traffic police.
On the other side, the traffic police have complaints against the leaders interfering with law enforcement. The informant told me about a case in which there was a traffic jam due to an accident. A county leader drove his car through the jam and created more chaos. A traffic police officer stopped the leader, who said nothing and refused to cooperate. So the traffic police officer took down the leader's license. Afterwards, the boss made the traffic police officer apologize to the county leader with fine wine, cigarettes and the license.
After the article was published, three people from the Cili armed militia division came to our office in Guangzhou. The three people were Ouyang Jingping, the political office director and one other person. They thought that I did not present Ouyang Jingping's views in full. They also brought some documents that showed that the military vehicle was assigned by the armed militia division for the use of the county party secretary. There was also an application to the Zhangjiajie military district.
The county party secretary already has a government vehicle. If he holds another position, then should he get another vehicle? There are more than 2,000 counties and their party secretaries. Should all these provincial governors and mayors get military vehicles? How many military vehicles in the country? Is this an abuse?
We asked them: "Did you assault someone?" They said: "Yes." "Was the county party secretary present?" They also said: "Yes."
The principal fact is that the video was the proof. The interviewing was backed up with audio recordings. In the end, they had to negotiate with us about no further reports and they also wanted us to withdraw what was on the Internet. But the report has been re-posted all over the Internet and there was no way to take it all back. As to whether there will be any follow-up, it is none of their business.