Government and Policy

Comment:What should people do?

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-02-05 07:57
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This might actually be something to celebrate for poor Yin Xianqiong, the 50-something rural woman who, photographs show, was down on her knees begging two uniformed security guards to let her enter the Kaixian county government's office building in southwestern Chongqing.

In spite of the frustration and humiliation - accounts by local authorities and witnesses vary and we don't know whom to believe - she is said to have her concern taken care of. She is among the lucky few who want to share their stories of injustice with their local administrators and get the chance to do so. We are yet to know exactly what her grievance is about.

We are not sure if her story would have been heard and her grievance redressed were it not for the uproar the heart-breaking images aroused in cyberspace. But many have associated this with a recent case in Jiangsu province where a person, who wanted to lodge a complaint with the local government, was denied access to the local government building and told that the government only dealt with "big issues."

In both cases, the pathetic security guards were fired. What they said and did, according to the authorities in both places, did not represent the local governments' stand. We hope that is true.

We know the images available on the Internet do not represent the whole truth. Different parties have different accounts of what was shown. And the process - whether the woman was "escorted", as was described by officials, out of the building after disturbing office work or "kicked" out - is no longer as important given the striking visual impacts of the photographs. That an ordinary citizen had to get down on her knees to beg security guards to allow her to enter a government building is a shame.

It's an irony, too. And that irony was augmented by the shimmering plate with bold characters, "People's Government of Kaixian County", on it. We just wonder who those "people" are, or if Yin is one of them.

We assume Yin knows where to go to have her grievance heard. She would not go to an institution that has no jurisdiction over her case. If she does belong to the "people" that plate refers to, there is no excuse for her being treated the way she was right under that very plate. Do not those inside the building call themselves "public servants"? Or maybe, again, Yin is not included in their specific domain of "public".

People who visit government offices to lodge complaints are not popular guests. We all know that. Or authorities everywhere would not have snubbed them. But who are to blame for the humiliating experiences of people like Yin at the doors of government offices? If it is the guards, let us hope all governments learn from the Kaixian case and give their gatekeepers clear instructions so that similar misunderstandings do not occur.

It would be sad if the sacred name of "people's governments" is ruined by abusive guards.

(China Daily 02/05/2010 page8)