Friday, July 09, 2004

Exposé of Peasants' Plight Is Suppressed by China
By Joseph Kahn, The New York Times, July 9, 2004

EFEI, China, July 5 - In their muckraking best seller about abuses against Chinese peasants, the husband-and-wife authors, Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao, told the stories of farmers who fought the system and lost.

The book, "An Investigation of China's Peasantry," describes how one farmer's long struggle against illegal taxes ended only when the police beat him to death with a mulberry club. It profiles a village activist who was jailed on a charge of instigating riots after he accused a local Communist Party boss of corruption.

Now, Mr. Chen and Ms. Wu say, it is their turn to be silenced.

Though their tautly written defense of China's 750 million peasants has become a sensation, their names have stopped appearing in the news media. Their publisher was ordered to cease printing at the peak of the book's popularity this spring, leaving the market to pirates who subsequently churned out millions of copies in violation of the copyright.

A ranking official sued sued the authors, accusing them of libel, in his home county court. In a country that does not protect a right to criticize those holding power, it is a case they say they are sure to lose.

Top Beijing leaders acknowledge that China's surging urban economy has done relatively little to benefit the two-thirds of the population living in rural areas.

Politicians, journalists, businessmen and even economists never tire of talking in glowing terms about China's growing strength as a world power. Now everyone has started talking about India in a similar fashion. However, the recent Indian elections underscored and brought into focus how the great mass of rural poor did not benefit from the economic liberalization of India.

Here in America, we regularly hear about the gap between the rich and the poor.

What does this suggest? Is there some common thread in this global phenomenon, despite the all-round advances of mankind in every field of human activity?


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