Editorial: Headcount copping

June 29, 2012 - 3:12:46 am

The plight of a 22-year old mother has invited bad press in China and raised concern across the world in what is being scene as another violation of human rights in the country of 1.4 billion. Feng Jianmei’s photograph of her lying in the hospital bed with a bloodied corpse of her 7-month old baby went viral on the Internet after being posted online by her husband, outraged as he must have been by the authorities’ cruel act of forcing his wife to abort her second pregnancy. The grotesquely cruel act was perpetrated by local authorities in northern China’s Shaanxi province.

On Tuesday there was an uproar across China after seven local officials responsible for the act were let off with “administrative sanctions.” Millions reacted online saying that the punishment was not commensurate with the gravity of the offence. Authorities said they had sacked two officials in Zhengping county and  censured five others.

The scandal comes weeks as the rancour generated by the Bo Xilai scandal was getting feeble. The controversy involving the top communist party official had jolted Beijing as it involved an ungainly combination of political scheming, murder and even stormy diplomacy. Xilai was fired from the party post and several skeletons tumbled out of the cupboard embarrassing the party and the administration alike. Bo’s wife Gu Xilai is under investigation for the murder of Neil Heywood, whose death was passed off as natural till more facts were dug up proving otherwise.

After numerous food scandals and other controversies that point to a lack of commitment on part of Beijing to enforce a strict administration and handle atrocities with a firm hand, the latest one has proved that the administration is somehow losing control of officials at the ground level. This points to a need for Beijing to spruce up administrative linkages in the vast country and enforce laws in the right spirit. Feng was made to suffer by unscrupulous officials as she violated China’s one-child policy and could not pay a fine of 40,000 Yuan slapped on her. Authorities therefore forced Feng, who was seven-months into her pregnancy, to abort the baby. When the incident came to light, her husband had disappeared from home and was probably in hiding to escape the wrath of the powers-that-be. The family were branded traitors for talking to foreign media. Villagers strung a banner that read “traitors” near their home.

Incidents of rights abuses and excesses by authorities in the most populous country in the world are becoming more frequent. Even something as innocuous as a singing performance by a Chinese girl during the opening of the Beijing Olympics was not free from controversy. The permanent member of the UN Security Council should be seen to be behaving with more responsibility and egalitarianism where human rights are concerned. If Beijing fails to control wayward officials and irresponsible implementation of laws, the day is not far when its name will become synonymous with scandals and controversies.