Liu Shinan

Work toward fighting social injustice

By Liu Shinan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-05-26 07:51
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Two separate series of incidents that happened in recent months have had the effect of shocking the nation.

The first was the string of 11 successive suicides by employees of the Shenzhen-based technology firm Foxconn since the beginning of this year. The latest tragedy happened as this writer was working on the column yesterday. The other, six fatal attacks on kindergarten kids and students in various provinces across the country over two months.

The public, understandably, was shocked by the loss of so many lives in such a short period of time. Yet, they were more puzzled at the weird recurrence of such tragedies. Why did such incidents take place despite widespread vigilance and preventive measures undertaken after the first few cases?

Some sociologists and psychologists attributed the phenomenon to psychological stress and mental problems suffered by the attackers as well as those who took their own lives. The experts even cited the Werther effect - copycat acts taking place following widely publicized similar cases.

Such theories are not groundless. In a certain sense, they are quite to the point. Yet, psychological or mental problems are definitely not the root cause of the tragedies. These problems have other deeper causes.

Some insightful critics pointed out that acute social conflicts - widening income gaps between the rich minority and lower and middle-income majority, worsening unemployment, rampant corruption, infringement of the public's interests and rights by the more powerful members of society, and so on - were to blame for such tragedies.

However, we do not seem to be alert enough to the gravity of the problem, or understand to how large an extent these social conflicts have affected these troubled individuals.

We should realize that social injustice may have reached a critical, or inflection point before such large-scale incidents were triggered. The Foxconn suicides and stabbings of schoolchildren are signals indicating this deeper malaise.

Though such incidents may not be all directly linked to specific cases of social injustice, one has to admit that the unfavorable social environment has caused some people to lose hope. These people may be more psychologically fragile than ordinary citizens but they probably would not have resorted to such desperate acts if society had been more fair and harmonious.

The frequency with which such cases of violence are occurring in recent years also indicates that, while we have strived to achieve miraculous economic growth, we have in the process failed to show simultaneous care to creating social justice.

The central government leadership has apparently taken note of the problem. At a press conference held during this year's session of the National People's Congress in March, Premier Wen Jiabao said: "China is in a stage of fast economic development. It is also a time when various kinds of contradictions become more prominent (than before). There are many reasons for these contradictions, of which a major one is the violation of laws in certain localities to infringe upon the public's interests."

The authorities have not only realized the seriousness of the problem of social injustice but also seem to have begun addressing the problem.

At the beginning of this year, the authorities announced, through the NPC meetings and the People's Daily newspaper that decisions would be taken to streamline national income distribution and raise the percentage of residents' income in the total national income and the share of remuneration for labor in primary distribution.

A second major move is the recent decision by the Supreme People's Court (SPC) to sort out petitions with regard to administrative litigations and correct wrongs in administrative litigation verdicts.

These two decisions are significant in the effort to resolve social conflicts and develop social harmony.

While the former tries to increase the common man's income, the latter tries to guarantee the public's right to seek justice in cases of conflict with those in power.

If implemented earnestly, the two undertakings will greatly alleviate public grievances and strengthen "social stability".

The key to the success of the two decisions lies in "implementation". The public, however, seem to be wary of these promises, as many such "decisions" or pledges have not borne fruit.

Hopefully, the public will not be let down once again.