Eluding The Cat
(Southern Metropolis Daily) Eluding The Cat (躲猫猫) February 17, 2009.
Last time when the young girl Li Shufen drowned in Weng'an, the police report mentioned "doing push-ups" which made the term red-hot on the Internet. This time when the young Yunnan man Li Qiaoming expired in a detention center, the police report said that he ran into a wall when he tried to "elude a cat." Very quickly, "eluding the cat" is now a red-hot term on the Internet. Netizens discussed the dangers involved in the game of "eluding the cat" and made large numbers of related posts.
According to <Yunnan Information News>, 24-year-old Yuxi Beicheng town male resident Li Qiaoming was arrested for illegally cutting down trees. On January 30, he was sent to the detention center. On February 8, he was taken to the hospital on account of an injury. Four days later he died. The cause of death was "severe brain injury."
The explanation from the Puning county public security bureau was that Li Qiaoming was injured while playing the game of "eluding the cat" with other prisoners. He had been kicked and beaten by other prisoners and accidentally hit a wall. Another local newspaper reported that Li Qiaoming was blindfolded while he played "eluding the cat" and "accidentally got hurt when he ran into the wall.
This news item drew more than 35,000 comments at QQ.com, most of which were about the subject of "eluding the cat."
The netizen Xu Hui wrote a blog entitled <The definition of 'eluding the cat'>: "Eluding the cat" means hide-and-seek. In northern China, it is known as "hiding the cat." Whether it is "eluding" or "hiding," this game is clearly derived from the cat-and-mouse game. With the departure of a young, healthy life, the 'eluding the kidden' game showed the human relationships inside the Puning detention center as well as proving a fact -- games can kill people."
"I thought that he might have killed himself when he was caught committing a crime. I never thought that he died while playing 'eluding the cat!' This goes far beyond my imagination!" Although nobody did any push-ups during the 'eluding the cat' game, someone died nevertheless! Are there any safe games or physical exercise left under the sun?"
According to the report in <Yunnan Information Times>, the police disclosed on the evening of February 12th the latest development in their investigation: "The deceased caught the fellow prisoner named Pu during the 'elude the cat' game. Pu was unhappy and the two man had a dispute. During the argument, Pu kicked the deceased once and then punched him on the head once. The deceased lost his balance and fell backwards, whereupon his head hit the sharp corner formed by the wall and the door. This was how the deceased got injured."
The netizen 'cos222' said that the 'eluding the cat' explanation was so absurd that it must be true. There was no reason for the police to create problems for themselves. While the police continue their investigation, the "eluding the cat" term continues to propagate on the Internet and may have a chance to become another popular saying on the Chinese Internet in 2009.
(Southern Metropolis Daily) February 20, 2009.
Yesterday a public notice was issued by the Yunnan Provincial Publicity Department's Press and Publication Administration.
The injury and subsequent death of the Yuxi city Hongta district Beicheng town young man Li Qiaoming in a detention center has received broad media attention, especially on the Internet. The term 'eluding the cat' has become a hot Internet term in a very short time. In order to satisfy the public's right to know, the Yunnan provincial publicity departhment will form an investigative committee with other relevant departments and proceed to Kunming city Puning town on the morning of February 20 to find out the truth about the incident. We are presently looking for four netizens and other representatives from society to serve as members of the committee. You can register between now and 8:00pm on the evening of February 19, 2009." The notice also included a QQ account number and a telephone phone number.
This piece of news was circulated quickly on the Internet. Many netizens cursed that this piece of "fake news" for being so obviously fake. Other netizens actually began to call.
"There is no truth that needs to be hidden. We will show by actual action tomorrow that this is now a show." Yunnan provincie publicity department press and publication administration deputy director Gong Fei said that the main reason why netizens were suspicious about the 'eluding the cat' incident was that the information had not been open and transparent in a timely manner. This time, the relevant departments (which includes the Yunnan provincial party public department, the Yunnan provincial public security bureau, the Yunnan Political Legal Committee and the Yunnan provincial procuratorate). Their public invitation for netizens is the first time in the history of the Internet in China.
Gong Fei said: "Before the public notice went out, we spent the entire morning convincing the other departments to cooperate with the media interviews. In the past, we did not respect the rules of journalism sufficiently and we did not understand the new media well enough. That was why we had a problem with public opinion. The purpose of this investigation is to show that there are no hidden secrets in this case." This decision had not been easy to make. "We basically discussed this for one whole morning. But in the end, we thought that a news story cannot just be 'blocked.' Besides this closed and opaque approach violated the people's right to know and caused the public to misinterpret the facts."
As of the cutoff time of 8:30pm, 510 netizens were able to register successfully. 10 of them (an increase over the originally planned 4 due to the enthusiastic response) will be selected to join the investigative committee to go to the scene of the incident on the morning of February 20.
The list of the investigative committee members includes: four government officials (1 from the provincial political legal committee, one from the provincial procuratorate and two from the provincial public security bureau); three media representatives (Xinhua; Yunnan Information Times; Yunnan Net); ten netizens and representatives from society (among the 8 already named, 5 are netizens, one is an insurance salesman, one is a technology worker and another one is a art student).
Gong Fei said that the activity on February 20 does not pre-suppose any desired outcome. The investigators will be able to meet with the principals, visit the detention center and interview the key participants and police investigators. "They can deduce the truth of the matter through their own observations."
(Southern Metropolis Daily) February 21, 2009.
When the news came out on the Internet that the committee formed by netizens had successfully entered the detention centre, Wu Hao breathed a sigh of relief in front of his computer monitor. Wu Hao is the Yunnan province publicity department deputy director who is the person who advocated the formation of the netizen committee.
This was the first astonishing policy decision of Wu Hao after only two months on the job. Previously, he had been a Xinhua reporter at the Yunnan bureau. His journalist career ended last year with the publication of the book <Wu Hao speaks about news>.
According to the old rules, at the time when "eluding the cat" was a hot Internet term, the Yunnan province publicity department had several options:
(1) Delay: Hope that this red hot story will cool down on its own after a few days
(2) Block: Issue a ban order to make all Yunnan province media shut up
(3) Erase: Use all resources and cleanse the Internet via administrative power.
(4) Wait: Hold a press conference after all the relevant political and legal departments have completed their investigations.
"But we don't want to the a second Tiger Zhou (The South China Tiger Photographs)." Wu Hao said that when he was interviewed last evening. He said: "Past experience has shown that the doubts of the netizens will not shift or recede on their own over time. Instead, the doubts will actually rise higher one wave then another."
Wu Hao was interviewed during a break while receiving an visiting team from Tibet. At the time of the interview, the netizen committee was busily writing its report. A member of committee walked into his office and asked him if he wanted to read the text before it was released. Wu Hao's response was that there will be "no screening" and "no interference" in return for the trust of the netizens.
But before he wins the trust of the netizens, he had to win the support of his colleagues. On February 19, he called for a meeting of representatives from the Yunnan province and Kunming city public security publicity departments, as well as the provincial procuratorate and the provincial political and legal committee.
Wu Hao said that they reached a consensus quickly. But an informed source said that the police representative had some objections and offered a dissenting opinion. The police representive thought that netizens will inevitably misinterpret any information and therefore yet another high-profile treatment of the "eluding the cat" incident will only make things worse.
Wu Hao's response was a shopworn political concept. Some time ago, former Yunnan province governor Qin Guangrong had delivered a report at the two Congresses to the effect that Yunnan has to make a full effort to build a "sunshine government."
But Wu Hao had to mobilize the government officials to do more than using "diplomatic language." According to Yunnan province party publicity department press and publication administration deputy director Gong Fei, "We spent the entire morning trying to persuade the various departments to do media interviews."
To the outsiders, the other factor that determined the attitude of the police was Wu Hao's personal experience. He had 16 years of experience as a media worker, with eight years in Tibet and Yunnan. In Kunming, Wu Hao is regarded as an expert on public opinon. Wu Hao agreed with that assessment during the interview.
Wu Hao was able to win the debate when two "allies" also made their positions known. They are respectively the Yunnan province party standing committee member and publicity department director Zhang Tianxin and Yunnan province party standing committee, political and legal committee secretary and public security bureau director Meng Sutie. These two party standing committee members kept an open mind about the netizen investigative committee.
On that afternoon, the Yunnan province public department issued a public bulletin on the Internet to ask for netizens to particpate in uncovering the truth of the "eluding the cat" incident. The shock caused by this piece of news was no less than the original "eluding the cat" incident itself.
A reporter from outside Yunnan province said that his first reaction after hearing the news was that this must be a "fake news story." He found the telephone number published by the Yunnan province publicity department and called to volunteer as a netizen. As Gong Fei attempted to verify his identity over the phone, this reporter recalled: "I was thinking that this guy puts on a really good acting job!"
But Wu Hao said that the enthusiasm of the netizens far exceeded his imagination. The number of netizens on the committee was increased from four to eight.
That evening, more than 1,000 netizens applied though QQ and telephone.
Eventually, the investigative committee consisted of 15 persons. There were four representatives from the province political and legal committee, the province procuratorate and the Kunming city public security bureau; three media representatives including the Yunnan Information Times; eight persons from the Internet and other social sectors. It is noted that five of the eight are local Yunnan media workers or have media industry background.
A investigative committee member who has the dual identities of "netizen" and "reporter" conjectured that the Yunnan province publicity department wanted the results to be disseminated positively and his own media status would be helpful in realizing that goal.
But Gong Fei said that the "eluding the cat" incident is an Internet incident and therefore the selection of committee members is skewed towards netizens. He quoted what Wu Hao told the media before: "A matter of Internet public opinion must be solved by Internet methods."
During the investigation, the committee asked for the surveillance tapes and to meeting with eyewitnesses. On both requests, the police cited the needs to maintain secrecy during an investigation and to protect privacy and declined.
One committee member said, "We ran into Catch 22 and we were overmatched by the police." Another member said, "State laws prohibit those actions. This investigative committee cannot override the law."
Before Wu Hao was interviewed, one member of the committee had told him about what "happened."
Wu Hao said: "The purpose of forming a netizen investigative committee is to respect the netizens' right to know, the right to express, the right to participate and the right to monitor. They are using the eyes and ears of the netizens to understand the truth of the matter. But the investigation conducted by the professional law enforcement agencies is something else which cannot be completely replaced by the netizen investigation."
Wu Hao said that he will not screen or interfere with the netizen committee report. This entire project has been handed over to the netizens. The investigative committee had said at a press conference beforehand that their report will not provide a definitive answer; instead, it will enumerate a list of issues that needs to be clarified. The committee chairman "Tail End of the Wind" said: "We cannot enter into certain issues and we must say that this is a regret."
These words were somewhat disappointing to the media which had followed the entire process. One reporter said that they will report the obstacles that the netizen committee encountered regardless of whether the police are pleased or not. The Yunnan province publicity department press and publication administration deputy director Gong Fei said that the publicity department will not interfere with Yunnan media. He said: "Now that we have taken this step forward, we don't want to go backwards."
Wu Hao said that the publicity department has no intention to make the 100 million netizens think as one. "My main goals were to satisfy the curiosity of the netizens and their insistence on knowing the truth."
(Southern Metroplis Daily) February 21, 2009.
At 0:30am, this reporter obtained the <Investigative report from the "Eluding the Cat" Investigative Committee>. The main points are as follows:
At 8:30am on Feburary 20, 2009, the 15 persons on the investigative committee met in front of the Yunnan province party committee building and then proceeded to Jinning county fifty kilometers away.
Since no department had made any arrangements about any schedule or itinerary for the committee, these committee members who had never met each other previously held a meeting to discuss the agenda. Everybody agreed that the investigative work should proceed as follows:
1. Listen to the Jinning public security bureau and procuratorate report on the situation and ask them questions.
2. Proceed to the detention centre and observe the conditions.
3. Question the militia police officers and doctors on duty at the time of the incident.
4. Question the principals and eyewitnesses who were in the same cell as Li Qiaoming at the time of the incident.
5. View the surveillance tapes, logs, medical records, autopsy reports and other relevant documents.
At 10:24am, the committee members and other media reporters arrived at the Jinning county public security bureau conference room where local government officials were already waiting.
The Jinning county public security bureau deputy director Yan Guodong in charge of the detention centre reported the 2.08 incident to the committee members and the media.
Yan Guodong emphasized: At 10:30pm on February 12, 2009 when the Jinning public security bureau was interviewed by the press, the term "eluding the cat" was not used.
The country procuratorate deputy prosecutor general Han Hongbing presented the investigative work done for the 2.08 incident. Through conducting interviews, reviewing the documents and conducting an autopsy, the procuratorate excluded the possibility that the deceased was tortured or assaulted by the militia police officers at the detention center. They did not find any dereliction of duty either. The investigation is still ongoing at this time.
The investigative committee then posed questions.
The investigation committee deputy director Bian Min asked: "Are there surveillance tapes in Li Qiaoming's cell? If so, can we view the tapes on the day of the incident?"
The Jinning public security bureau deputy director answered "No."
Only the committee members were admitted into the detention center, but not the media. Apart from paper and pencil, all computers, recording devices, cameras and mobile phones had to be turned over for safekeeping. At 13:15pm, the committee members completed their registration and inspected the scene of the incident from the corridor.
The militia police pointed out that spot where Li Qiaoming was "eluding the cat." The committee members can see cell number 9 through the monitoring window. They saw that the cells were uniform in size with an inside room and an outside space of about 5 to 6 square meters where the sun shone down. The inside space was about 18 squares meters in area. The prisoners slept on mattresses on the floor. According to observation, the cells held between 9 to 12 persons each.
After inspecting the cell, the group moved into the conference room. The investigative committee asked again to speak to Pu XX who caused the death of Li Qiaoming. They also asked to meet with other cellmates. Deputy prosecutor general Han said: "It is inappropriate to hold a meeting out of consideration that the investigation is ongoing and that the detention center rules have to be observed." Deputy director Yan occurred: "I agree with the opinion of procuratorate and therefore cannot satisfy the request of the committee."
During the interrogation of the militia police officer on duty at the time, we once again brought up the issue of "surveillance tapes." The police said that there was no camera in the exercise area where the incident took place, and therefore no surveillance tape exists. According to regulations, the sleeping area of the cell must have a camera but its location was secret. Deputy prosecutor general Han then gave the opinion of the procuratorate: "The contents of any surveillance tape are confidential under the privacy law."
When the committee members came out of the detention center, the police said that the Jinning county government will arrange lunch. The committee members thanked the Jinning county government but insisted on paying their own way. It worked out to be 36 yuan per person on the AA system (that is, equal sharing).
The committee members returned to the Yunnan party committee office building and asked for an office room in order to write the report together. "Tail End of the Wind" was the main writer while Bian Min and Yang Zifei helped. Wang Lei drove out to purchase rice noodles for dinner, which was paid for under the AA system again.
When the investigative committee began to work, everybody felt a certain embarrassment. Indeed, this investigative committee was able to obtain a lot of information that was previously unknown to the netizens and the media. But when we naively asked to meet the suspects and see the surveillance tapes, we were turned down due to various legal and administrative reasons. Then we suddenly recognized that while netizens may be all-powerful on the Internet, they are very much helpless in real life.
As a matter of practical reality, no netizen or netizen investigative committee can ever "discover the truth." In the case of the "eluding the cat," only the judiciary departments will be able to expose the truth because only they have the legal resources. Yet some of these departments have been less informative and overly sensitive in the past and that affects their credibility in the eyes of the public. Under these abnormal circumstances, the Internet has the most open and rapid information and therefore the netizens could raise a storm of public opinon.
This report cannot be the document that decodes or expose the truth about the "eluding the cat" incident. We can only promise that our conscience and sense of responsibility were present on this day.
We pose six questions and answers here:
Q1. How is "eluding the cat" actually played?
A. The name of the game here is actually "blind person catching fish." The principals of the case came from various locales, and therefore they have different names for the game. Some people call it "blind man feeling for the elephant," other people call it "blind man catching fish" and still other people call it "eluding the cat." The game is played with one person being blindfolded and then he has to catch others with his hand. Whenever he catches someone, the game is over. The person who was caught must be blindfolded and then the next round of the game begins.
Q2. Is "eluding the cat" or "blind man catch fish" a form of torture/bullying when played inside a detention centre?
A. This is sheer entertainment that the detainees played on their own without telling the militia policemen. Under the regulations of the detention center, the detainees are not allowed to play games on their own. If they wanted to play cards or something like that, they must tell the militia policemen.
Q3. Does the past actions of Pu Huayong indicate any violent tendencies?
A. Pu Huayong behaved normally. When the autopsy report comes out, we will forward the matter to the procuratorate to determine criminal liability.
Q4. Were there militia policemen present at the time of the incident?
A. No. The six persons playing in the game waited until after the militia policemen completed their patrol rounds and then they began their game. There are two rooms in the 11 detainees in cell number 9. The smaller outside room is for exercise and contains a cabinet, wash basin and toilet.
Q5. Has anything like this happened before? Had there been there any brawls among criminal suspects?
A: No, it has never happened before.
Q6. Does the detention center bear any responsibility over this matter?
A. We investigated. First of all, we can exclude any problems about the militia policemen torturing detainees or being derelict in duty. But no matter how you looked at it, this incident took place inside the detention centre. The disciplinary committee will investigate. The militia policemen will be held accountable. I (Yan Guodong) will also be held accountable because I am the detention center director.
(Southern Metropolis Daily) February 21, 2009.
According to Xinhua, the Yunnan province Kunming city Jinming county public security bureau has announced the results of their investigation of the "eluding the cat" incident to a commission consisting of netizens and media representatives.
In accordance to the requirements of the law, the Jinning county security bureau crime investigation squad has come to the following preliminary finding: Nine criminal suspects had been detained in cell number 9 of the Jinning county detention centre. At 17:50 on February 5, six men including Pu XX, Li XX and Yu XX waited for the militia police officers to complete their patrol round and then began to play a game of "blind man catching fish" in the exercise area of the cell. Li Qiaoming was blindfolded first and then he groped for the other five. During the process, Pu XX was the first man to be caught by Li, who grabbed him by the hand and demanded to switch roles. Pu XX did not even think that the game had begun yet and there was a struggle. Pu XX kicked Li in the stomach and then swung a punch on Li's head. The blindfolded Li could not defend himself, lost his balance and fell backwards so that his head was injured on the door frame.
The investigation is continuing.
(Southern Metropolis Daily) Human Flesh Search On "Eluding The Cat" Investigative Team Members. February 22, 2009.
The critical voices about the members of the investigative team are concentrated at the Tianya Forum. A netizen provided a link to the Cailong Forum that showed the investigative team leader "Tail End of the Wind" wrote the <2007 Kunming Daily News Labor Union Working Plan>. Furthermore, his real name Zhao Li was listed as a "publicity committee member" in the Labor Union Committee.
Cailong Forum is part of Cailong Net, which is a portal for the local party newspaper Kunming Daily. The netizens therefore believed that "Tail End of the Wind" is part of the system and that would cast doubts on the neutrality of the investigative activity.
Two days ago, "Tail End of the Wind" was selected as a netizen member of the investigative team by the Yunnan party publicity department. But before that, "Tail End of the Wind" was already a local celebrity. On March 30, 2008, <New Life Daily> published a report titled "The Most Controversial Internet Commentator" about him. That essay ended this way: "The top local netizens rated him this way: he is a unique and successful Yunnan case of an official Internet commentator, an Internet writer and a netizen all mixed in one while still being somewhat politically correct."
The writer of that article is Wen Xing, who is also a member of the "Eluding the Cat" investigative team.
Netizens found this article on Wen Xing's blog. This proved that these two people have made contact before and therefore their simultaneous selection implied manipulation.
The investigative team's deputy director Bian Min is another target for the netizens. His real name is Dong Yubin and he is the Internet commentary supervisor at <New Life Daily> website. In another linked newspaper story, Bian Min and Tail End of the Wind appeared together at the same <"Yunnan TV news reform> form on January 22, 2009 under the identities of "enthusiastic audience members."
Netizens said Bian Min and Tail End of the Wind are veteran actors who have performed together before.
The human flesh search has come up with the real identities of all the netizen representatives on the investigation team. They all have media working experiences and backgrounds, and therefore they are regarded as people inside the system. Some netizens have labeled them "fifty-cent gang members." In the virtual world of the Internet, "fifty-cent gang member" is a derogatory term for full-time or part-time commentators who speak out and lead Internet opinion while being employed and directed by the government.
These accusations have caused doubts about the selection processes by the Yunnan province party publicity department of the investigative team members. At the time, the Yunnan province party publicity department explained that the selection was done in two stages. In the first stage, netizens without high name recognition on the Internet were eliminated. In the second stage, the team members were randomly selected from the remaining names.
Tail End of the Wind rejected these accusations. He told the reporter that he had left his old job many years ago. He is presently an Internet editor for Yunnan TV Net. Since he has not signed a labor contract yet, he does not even have a social security account number. So he could not possibly be a member of the "system." He made a wager that if anyone can find out his social security account number, then that person can take all the money away. He said that in frustration.
As for the selection process, Tail End of the Wind has his own speculation: "If the active netizens in Yunnan are not selected and only a few netizens whom nobody has ever heard of are chosen instead, this netizen investigative team would be subjected to even more doubts. The netizens would say that these are sock-puppets from the publicity department."
Tail End of the Wind said that the misgivings of the netizens are attributed to the unsatisfactory findings in the investigative report. He said that he wrote the part about the limitations of the investigation. "When the investigative committee began to work, everybody felt a certain embarrassment. Indeed, this investigative committee was able to obtain a lot of information that was previously unknown to the netizens and the media. But when we naively asked to meet the suspects and see the surveillance tapes, we were turned down due to various legal and administrative reasons. Then we suddenly recognized that while netizens may be all-powerful on the Internet, they are very much helpless in real life."
"This helplessness is the greatest feeling for me during this investigation." Tail End of the Wind made this analogy -- a person may be a leader, king or emperor in an online game, but in real life he may be worried about how to find the money to get online.
The investigative team deputy director Bian Min shot back at the critics. The soft version: "You doubt my character, but I doubt your intelligence." The strong version: "As for those who criticize me (especially those who make character assassinations because they know that I could not get online while the investigation was going on), I express my disgust and contempt."
The netizen team member Capable Mason received fewer criticisms. He believed that this was because he is a Tianya Forum administrator. He told the reporter: "There is only a small circle of Internet writers in Yunnan, and people know each other. So it is not unreasonable that many of them are chosen for the investigative team at the same time."
Capable Mason said that Tail End of the Wind and Bian Min are both responsible people who will not be easily exploited. "Every person has his own background and experience, and will do things his own way."
As for how the team was formed, Capable Mason said that he can understand the official attitude: "When they took the lead to proceed, they must have considered whether it will go out of control."
Capable Mason considered the "Eluding the Cat" netizen investigation to represent a positive official response to netizen opinon. He thought that it was a good thing that such a step was made. "What we need to do is to push them up the tree so that they can't even come down if they wanted to. We will encourage them to keep doing this." This is the advice from Capable Mason.
(Southern Metropolis Daily) The Secrets of the QQ Chat Records of the Government on the ¡§Elude the Cat¡¨ Affair. February 23, 2009.
The Yunnan provincial publicity department insisted on having fully open information in order to deal with the public opinion storm over the ¡§elude the cat¡¨ incident.
Yesterday afternoon, the Yunnan provincial publicity department deputy director Wu Hao was interviewed online by Yunnan Net, and afterwards showed the QQ chat session record to the reporter in a stunning move. This record was the history of the entire process by which netizens were invited to join the investigative committee, including the controversy over the choice of who to include on the list, the reason why permission was denied to the committee to meet with the principals of the case and whether the investigative committee director was a ¡§fifty-cent ganger¡¨ (wumaodang).
The QQ group known as ¡§Wu Hao¡¦s Internet opinon box¡¨ is the QQ group for the Yunnan provincial publicity department deputy director. The group members are mainly provincial publicity department officials, media reporters, website workers, etc. Wu Hao said that he used this QQ group to understand what the grassroots media workers are thinking. Sometimes, he seeks out their opinions before announcing certain decisions.
Late yesterday night, Yunnan Net even posted the entire chat record. The publication of this official QQ chat record caused another wave of heated discussion. The netizens gave very high marks to the action. Like the original public notice to invite netizens to join the investigative committee, this action also shook up the Internet and many people found this to be unthinkable.
Our reporter reviewed this 40-page chat record and came up with five key questions.
(1) The inside story of the public invitation to join the investigative committee
The chat record showed that at 14:29 on the afternoon of February 19, the Yunnan provincial publicity department deputy director Wu Hao announced in the QQ group that they were looking for netizens to sign up for the investigative committee. Within one minute, the netizens ¡§Tail End of the Wind¡¨ and ¡§Bian Min¡¨ (who works for the newspaper <New Life News>) signed up via QQ. Wu Hao immediately announced that ¡§since the two of you were the first to sign up, you will be the director and deputy director of this investigative committee!¡¨ Then Wen Xing also signed up. They began to discuss how to report and communicate this to the public.
On 15:25, ¡§The Cloud from the South¡¨ posted the public notice and requested the Internet media to cross-post. The various Yunnan website published the notice. Four minutes later, Wu Hao¡¦s telephone at the Information Office was overwhelmed by calls. The people who already signed up on the QQ group were the first to call.
When interviewed by Yunnan Net yesterday, Wu Hao made a point about the selection criteria and process of the netizen members of the investigative committee. He said that the original plan designated the first applicants as the director and deputy director. They had originally been concerned that nobody would sign up, so the plan included ¡§incentives¡¨ for early sign-ups. Out of the same concern, Wu Hao mobilized within his QQ group first before making the official notice public. Among the first three applicants, Bian Min is Dong Yubin, who is the Internet commentary supervisor for <New Life News> , Tail End of the Wind is Zhao Li who is an editor for Yunnan TV Net and Wen Xing is a reporter at <New Life News>.
(2) The controversy over the list of investigative committee members
On the evening of February 19, the Yunnan provincial publicity department announced the name of the investigative committee members. Immediately, someone raised questions. <New Life News> reporter Wen Xing asked immediately: ¡§How come I am listed as a netizen and not as a media representative?¡¨ Yunnan Daily Net¡¦s Gan said bluntly: ¡§There is going to be a problem with this.¡¨ Yunnan provincial publicity department deputy director Wu Hao then asked why he said that.
Gan then held a private chat session with Wu Hao in another window. Gan said that he was concerned that the outside world would think that the netizens in the list are really ¡§fifty-cent gang members.¡¨ ¡§Bian Min and them can be media representatives. Netizens should be pure netizens.¡¨ Gan pointed out that Bian Min was listed as a netizen in the list and he is the deputy director of the investigative committee. In real life, Bian Min is the Internet commentary supervisor over at <New Live News>.
Wu Hao then began a discussion with Gan as to how many people in the lists were pure netizens. Gan said that there was only two. Wu Wao said that it was three on the basis of the work units of the people. Later on, this reporter found out that four of the eight netizen representatives are both netizens and media workers, while the other four are ¡§pure netizens.¡¨
Wu Hao also explained that since Bian Min and Tail End of the Wind were the first to sign up, ¡§I appointed them as the director and deputy director.¡¨ Gan agreed that they can serve in those positions, but he also suggested that they not be listed as ¡§netizen representatives.¡¨
Wu Hao proposed contacting the information office to discuss the addition of two more pure netizen representatives. Gan recommended that ¡§the netizen representatives should be pure netizens in order to show our determination and not be accused by others that we are using ¡¥fifty-cent gangers¡¦.¡¨
But this discussion was not pursued any further according to the QQ chat record. The list was not altered.
(3) Future plans
By February 21, there were plenty of doubts about the statuses of Tail End of the Wind, Bian Min, Wen Xing and Ji Bu. Some netizens thought that they were ¡§fifty-cent gang members.¡¨
At 00:05 on February 22, a discussion began inside the QQ group. Wu Hao said: ¡§At the time, someone reminded me not to let Bian Min and them lead the committee. I only considered that I had promised to let the first applicants be the committee director and deputy director. It would seem that I had not fully considered everything.¡¨
Yunnan Net¡¦s Lian Fuying thought that the Yunnan websites had fewer doubts about the identities of these people because most local netizens knew that Bian Mina and Tail End of the Wind have good reputations. But netizens outside of Yunnan had lesser awareness.
Lian Fuying recommended a second investigation that specifically includes netizens from outside Yunnan. Wu Hao did not think that there was any need to have another investigation. ¡§But the concerns of the netizens must be addressed.¡¨ Wu Hao said. ¡§When I do my Yunnan Net interview tomorrow, I will officially announce that the committee will not disbanded until the police report is released. The committee will collect the doubts from the netizens and hand them over to the police in a formal document.¡¨
But Wu Hao did not bring up this point in the Yunnan Net interview. Our reporter contacted two members of the investigative committee. Both said that they have not been told about whether the investigative committee has completed its mission or whether it should continue to exist.
(4) The problems at the meeting
At 00:40 on February 22, Wu Hao posted the private chat sessions with Pig Man earlier at 21:00 on February 21. During this private chat, Pig Man posted a hyperlink to the editorial piece in Southern Metropolis Daily that day entitled ¡§The Netizen Investigative Committee cannot relieve our anxiety over learning the truth>. The piece spoke of the regret that the netizen investigative committee over not being able to get to the details in the heart of the case.
Wu Hao had this to say: ¡§The people in the judiciary did not heed the advice of us in the publicity department. They rejected the committee¡¦s request to meet with the suspect because it was ¡¥against the law.¡¦ I feel very much helpless. It would be better if we make everything open and transparent in the case.¡¨
¡§I told them repeatedly not to get stuck with arguing whether it was ¡¥eluding the cat¡¦ as opposed to ¡¥blind man catching fish.¡¦ They didn¡¦t believe me. At the negotiation meeting, everything went well and the committee could meet the key witnesses. But if they changed their minds at the last minute, it cannot be good.¡¨ Wu Hao said that he did not expect that the local authorities would change their minds suddenly.
Wu Hao said that the Jinning county party secretary was ¡§very mad at the deputy secretary general. They had to ruin what was a good thing.¡¨
Wu Hao said that they should have done their best to see if it was at all possible under the law for the committee to meet with the suspect. Other QQ members such as Tail End of the Wind thought that a civilian investigative committee does not have the right to do so.
Wu Hao then asked whether there was no surveillance video or they were just not allowed to view it. Tail End of the Wind replied: ¡§There was no surveillance video but we wouldn¡¦t have the right to see it anyway if it existed.¡¨ He said that they did not observe any surveillance equipment at the scene and that was consistent with the relevant regulations.
(5) The ¡§Fifty-cent Gang¡¨ issue
In the last section of the private chat between Wu Mao and Tail End of the Wind published by the Yunnan provincial publicity department, Wu Hao asked Tail End of the Wind directly: ¡§Are you a ¡¥fifty-cent gang member¡¦? I don¡¦t supervise the Internet supervisory department. Do they really pay you?¡¨
Tail End of the Wind replied: ¡§I sometimes get paid when I write some essays on subjects such as the electricity projects a Nujiang. But the amounts are not much. We are expressing our personal views in those essays but this is about using our influence on the Internet. This is not a big issue. The fifty-cent gang members are singing praises most of the time. The two of us severely criticize the government. It is very easy to retrieve what we wrote on the Internet.¡¨
¡§Actually, Bian Min and I have very advantageous identities. Both of us are actually freelancers. Although we have worked in the media industry before, we were only temporary contract workers. Up to now, I still don¡¦t any social security pension and medical insurance. I encourage netizens to look up my social security information. This is no secret and very easy to find. This proves that we are independent people.¡¨
Our reporter asked Wu Hao specifically about the Internet suspicions about the ¡§fifty-cent gang.¡¨ Wu Hao said: ¡§Are there fifty-ceng gangs in Yunnan? That is the question that you are concerned, and it is also a question that I am concerned with as well. People can check my QQ record. I specifically asked the Internet supervisory department director: Is Tail End of the Wind one of you ¡¥fifty-cent gang member¡¦? Do you pay them? The director said that the concept does not even exist in Yunnan. The government does not pay netziens either. In practice, when their Internet supervisory department has to cope with certain public opinion crisis and need to collect some essays, they will offer some compensation in accordance with copyright laws. But these people are not ¡¥fifty-cent gang members¡¦ who are paid on a regular basis.¡¨
After the online interview was over, Wu Hao told the reporter that the netizen investigative committee was an experiment by the Yunnan government to create a ¡§sunshine¡¨ government. He also said that the Yunnan government had absorbed rich experiences from the handling of the Menglian incident, which was a breakthrough in terms of being open and transparent about a mass incident.
On July 19 last year, there was a violent incident in the Menglian minority autonomous areas in Yunnan province. The public security personnel on duty were assaulted by several hundred people. During the incident, the militia police were forced to employ anti-riot tactics that led to casualties. An investigation afterwards came to this conclusion: the local government mishandled the situation and served the local bosses¡¦ interests.
At the time of the incident, Wu Hao was still a reporter for the Xinhua agency. He told the reporter that Xinhua had contacted the relevant departments in order to publish the exclusive breaking news stories. Wu Hao was also part of the investigative team as a member of the media. ¡§As a team worker, I personally spoke to the representatives of the rubber farmers.¡¨ He recalled.
Through a Baidu search, this reporter was able to retrieve many articles written by the Xinhua reporter Wu Hao. These articles had innovative angles, progressive ideas and rich contents. They represented a sharp break from the past ¡§official reports.¡¨
For example, the article dated July 28 cited Yunnan provincial party deputy secretary Li Jiheng: ¡§When nobody listens to what they say, nobody follows what they do and the masses take out machetes instead, then these cadres might as well as jump into the river!¡¨ On September 9, the title of the article was: ¡§Yunnan reflects deeply on the Menglian incident, police cadres are warned to ¡¥serve the people¡¦ and not ¡¥service the bosses¡¦.¡¨ The title of the September 18 article was: ¡§Yunnan: Strictly prohibited to label the complaining masses as ¡¥troublemakers¡¦ or other such titles.¡¨ These essays drew enthusiastic responses from netizens and had the objective effect of improving the image of the government.
Wu Hao said that the handling of the Menglian incident was a landmark in openness and transparency on the part of the Yunnan provincial government. The conflicts were quickly resolved, without evolving into the more violent Weng¡¦an incident that occurred a month ago in Guizhou.
The proposal to form a netizen investigative team for the ¡§eluding the cat¡¨ incident was a continuation of the thinking used to handle the Menglian incident. Wu Hao said that the local masses were calm during the ¡§eluding the cat¡¨ incident, which showed once again that openness and transparency are the correct ways to deal with problems.
Baidu Search also brought back the last article that Wu Hao wrote as a reporter. On October 31 last year, he wrote ¡§Yunnan provincial party committee bring up ¡¥bad things¡¦ on the table for the people to see.¡¨
Six days later, the Yunnan provincial party organizational committee in charge of cadres announced that Wu Hao has been transferred from being the deputy editor-in-chief of Xinhua¡¦s Yunnan station to become the provincial publicity department deputy director.
In discussing this job transfer, Wu Hao said: ¡§I am known in the media industry mostly for watchdog journalism and writing internal reference reports¡¨ and ¡§I have caused a lot of troubles for Yunnan.¡¨ He said, ¡§If the Yunnan government and party secretary were not open-minded, I would not have gotten this job.¡¨
But his appointment was controversial. Wu Hao said franly, ¡§Before I took over the job, I saw that some on the Internet said that it was a good thing for a veteran news worker to assume this job because of the familiarity. There are others who say that this may not be a good thing, because an insider knows exactly where to strike when he is a supervisor.¡¨
But he said that it was precisely because he was a reporter that he realized that he must treat reporters well and open up the space and policies for the information office.
He also told the reporter that he had not received any pressure from his superiors after initiating the netizen investigative committee. On the contrary, the pressure came from the self-doubts of the netizens themselves. He said: ¡§Our goal was to expand the rights of the netizens, but the netizens doubt themselves. So I need to reconsider on the basis of studying public opinion further whether the next step is to proceed in even bigger steps, or to restore the original conditions, or to take smaller, slower steps.¡¨
Related link: Eluding the Cat Investigation, Netizen¡¦s Power or Government PR? Corner Attorney