Wrong words by wrong person at the wrong time
On the 17th this month, four prisoners cruelly stabbed a police officer to death and escaped from the prison. After three-days' hunting, three of them were arrested by the police, and one was shot dead. A police officer handling the case told the media that "they will be executed soon after the interrogation".
After the Hollywood-movie-like prison break case, the public felt outraged by the brutality of the prison-breakers and sorry for the police officer who had sacrificed his life. But when we talk about the fate facing the jail breakers, the sentence must come through the legal process. Emotion and public opinion cannot replace the function of the judiciary.
Whether the breakers will get capital punishment should be decided by the court in accordance with criminal law. According to China's Criminal Law, one of the breakers will almost definitely be sentenced to death, and probably the other two as well. No one can execute them, however, before the court makes the verdict.
The police officer might forget his role, which is to arrest the suspects and provide evidence to the court, rather than to decide and announce a verdict. Doing this reflects his own ignorance.
Since the case has been highly exposed by the media and attracted huge public attention, figures dealing with it should be very cautious in their words and deeds because they are being closely observed by the public. I hope the police officers and the officials in the justice system will avoid making similar mistakes.
Slash profits on funeral services
At the recent annual meeting of the cemetery committee of China Funeral Association (CFA), Wang Jisheng, director of the committee, stated that "if people change their traditional idea about a funeral, there won't be fat profits for the industry." Wang also said that because all prices are fixed by the government, there are no excessive profits in services including transportation, storage and cremation of bodies. And if the families stop competing on lavish funerals, there would be no windfall for retailers of funerary urns or cemetery.
It is illogical, however, to deny the existence of fat profits in the name of government pricing. The fact that funeral services have been reaping a rich harvest over the years is a twice-told tale. The funeral and cemetery industry, ranked among the top three money-spinning businesses in 2003, is reportedly making 1,000 or even 2,000 percent profit. In addition, the industry was involved in series of corruption deals.
As a result, government pricing guarantees neither just prices nor cost-effective services. In fact, the services mentioned by Wang are indeed priced too high. On the one hand, funeral services take advantage of their monopolistic positions and charge people as they wish. On the other hand, funeral industry, thanks to its fat profits, has become a paradise for corrupt officials who utilize their administrative power to seek private benefits.
In fact, the crux of the problem is non-transparent pricing. With neither cost estimation nor public poll, government pricing tends to follow departmental interests. Hence, the solution rests ultimately on reforming the industry and not people's traditional ideas of a funeral. The exorbitant profit will only be reduced by introduction of competitors and publication of costs.
Zheng Zong Lao Liu
(China Daily 10/28/2009 page8)