Three Gorges Probe

The Story of the Dahe Dam: Chapter 6

Ying Xing
February 22, 2005

 

Chapter 6: In search of an honest judge

After the county and prefecture governments made it clear that local
Shanyang cadres had not, in their view, committed any crimes of
corruption, the villagers had to decide how to proceed. According to
the regulations pertaining to China’s shangfang [appeals]
system, petitioners were allowed to appeal to a higher level than the
prefecture government – the provincial authorities. But Tailor Wang and
the other “elite” of the affected people decided to go to the highest
authorities of all, the top leaders in Beijing, by way of the
provincial capital.1

Wang’s father made a further suggestion: that their grievances should
be summarized on a piece of white cloth, to really grab the attention
of the high-ranking officials in the capital. Wang’s father would do
the calligraphy, after which all the villages involved would add their
seals. But at that point, Tailor Wang recalled, the unexpected happened:

“My father, as I’ve mentioned, was particularly good at
calligraphy. At the top of the ‘white-cloth complaint,’ he wrote big
characters for ‘Injustice’ and then below that highlighted the main
points of our appeal in about 100 characters. Then we went round to
each of the production teams affected by the dam to get them to stamp
the cloth with their official seals. We were doing very well with the
five upstream production teams, but then ran into trouble with the
three downstream teams. To our dismay, a guy named Pu Dezheng suddenly
grabbed the cloth and ran out the door. We couldn’t stop him, but
immediately realized we had a big problem. Pu gave it to township
officials, who handed it over to county party secretary Zheng Yunkang.
We realized a disaster was imminent, and that we should start our
journey immediately. I didn’t even take the time to change my clothes.
We began walking to the county seat at once.”

The appearance of a “traitor” in the ranks of the affected people
was very distressing, but there was no time to clean up the mess, and
the Beijing-bound representatives left in a great hurry.2

Tailor Wang explained the divisions that had emerged between the
five upstream groups and three downstream groups, both in terms of
their ultimate goals and their ties to local officials. Under the
leadership of Teacher Xu and Tailor Wang, the upstream groups were
struggling to see corrupt local cadres punished so that the affected
people would receive the money they were owed, and the protest leaders
could then withdraw from the action without being punished. The three
downstream groups, however, wanted to benefit from the collective
actions but to bring no harm to local cadres. This was because these
peasants had close ties to the officials. For instance, Pu Dezheng, the
head of Mingyue 11 who had snatched up the white-cloth complaint, was a
relative of Pu Shaosong, the former head of Shanyang commune. Another
group leader in Mingyue village was related to Lin Qingshu, the former
deputy head of Shanyang district. Thus, the people in the three
downstream groups were interested in sharing the spoils of battle, but
not in causing the downfall of any local cadres.

On September 3, 1984, Tailor Wang and Liang Yonggong, a peasant from
Baiyang 14, set off on foot to find an “honest and upright judge”
outside of Yunyang county. They met with indifference at the provincial
Letters and Visits Office, but they had almost expected that. However,
they felt confident that the authorities in the capital would welcome
hearing from people who had been ill-treated by lower levels of
government. What they didn’t know was that petitioners from below were
not welcome at all in Beijing at that time, because the capital was
busy preparing for an important prestige event: the grand celebration
of the country’s 35th birthday on National Day, October 1, 1984.

As soon as they arrived at Beijing railway station on September 12,
Tailor Wang and his companion were taken into custody by police who
were checking travellers’ papers. The villagers back home in Shanyang,
excitedly waiting for news of how their two representatives were faring
in the capital, didn’t hear about their detention until September 25.
At that time, Tailor Wang’s brother raced to the county seat to try and
send an urgent telegram to the police at the Beijing railway station:
“The person who has been in your custody since September 12 is Wang
Xueping, the representative of disaster victims. Please let him go and
pass on this message to him: that he must do everything in his power to
complete the task of appealing to the higher authorities in Beijing.
Await your reply a.s.a.p.”

The telegram was never sent. The county post office suspected that
it pertained to criminal activity and reported its contents to the
county police and party committee. The latter instructed that the
telegram should not go through because of a ban on petitioning during
the National Day holiday. In the absence of any response from Yunyang
county, the police in Beijing lumped Wang and Liang in the “blind
floating” or chaotically drifting population. They decided to send
Liang back home, since he was carrying their travel-expense money. But
Wang appeared to be penniless, so he was sent to a holding centre on
the outskirts of Beijing, where “drifters” like him were made to work
until they had earned enough money to pay for their own way home.
Tailor Wang’s first trip to Beijing was nothing like he had imagined it
would be. It had turned into a real nightmare:

“I was terribly shocked and deeply depressed by the holding
centre they sent me to. I never, ever want to be in that place again
for the rest of my life. Nobody beat me or cursed at me, but it was
extremely painful and frustrating to be held there in that long room,
with hundreds of people living cramped together, with dim light, dirty
wood and dampness. The room, the air, everything gave off an unbearable
stench.

“After a while, the staff at the holding centre told us: ‘You had
better go register at the Letters and Visits Office of the State
Council, and then you will be given a ticket. With that ticket, you
will get everything free of charge for your journey home, but only as
far as the county level. After that, the rest of the trip will be your
own responsibility.’ So I was given such a ticket and sent along with
many other prisoner-like people to Beijing’s Fengtai station, where we
were locked in a railway carriage. Then the train left Beijing, going
through city A, arriving at city B, until finally we got off and took a
boat for Yunyang. At the port of Yunyang, the ticket was taken from me,
and I had to find some way to get money for the rest of the journey
home.

“I became very angry and frustrated about my terrible experience. I
had travelled to the capital to appeal to the ’emperor,’ but instead
was locked up in Beijing, unable to do anything for my people. When I
talked to the peasants back home, I was overcome with regret that I had
even gone to the capital, but they begged me repeatedly to continue the
work I had begun on their behalf. ‘We’re so grateful for what you’ve
done for us. Please carry on our struggle to the end. We all trust and
hope that you can get things done for us.’ All my friends and
relatives, particularly my wife and brothers, wanted me to walk away
from the whole troublesome business. But I felt it was only right that
I should try to finish what I had begun.”

Before his trip to Beijing, Tailor Wang had imagined the capital as
being clean, warm and bright. But before he even had a chance to take a
look at the city, he was detained at the railway station and then sent
to the holding centre. The whole experience frightened him terribly,
and he couldn’t figure out why things had gone against him in this way.3
His failure to bring their appeal to the attention of the highest
authorities in Beijing was a big blow to the villagers too. But they
felt it would be inviting even more trouble to give up the struggle
they had begun. They believed the best way forward was to exert growing
pressure on the governments at higher levels so that new work teams
would be sent down from above, to finally address their problems.

Trouble at the prefecture

Tailor Wang recalled:

“After the trip to Beijing, our problems remained
unresolved. We had no idea how to fix them, or how to deal with the
local cadres who had seized the money that was rightfully ours. Since
the prefecture had built the dam, we had no choice but to report the
situation to the dam builder – the prefecture government. And so, on
October 17, 1984, 40 of us local peasants drove a truck to the
prefecture government building, asking them for help. We already knew
that the Dahe station had allocated around 420,000 yuan to us, but that
we had received much less than that.

“So we drove the big truck through the pouring rain to the
prefecture. We got soaked through and cut sorry figures. We looked like
a dishevelled, disorganized bunch of peasants, but we had no choice. We
had to survive and to feed our families, and to bring our plight to the
attention of the government. We got in to see the commissioner and
showed him a series of documents that contained convincing proof of
what we were saying. Two of us were chosen to do the talking, and we
thought we were doing so well that the officials were unable to advance
any counterarguments. Eventually the commissioner said, ‘You’d better
go home now, and we‚Äôll send somebody to deal with these problems.'”

The group spent the night in a carpentry workshop in the courtyard
of the prefecture government. In the morning, it was so cold that they
lit a fire, which ended up exploding a hole in the cement floor of the
workshop. “We felt very sorry about that,” Wang recalled, “and then we
went home because the government had promised to send officials down to
sort out our problems.”

Wang described the group as looking “disorganized,” but a prefecture document recording the meeting put it differently:

“More than 40 peasants arrived from Shanyang, moved in, lit
a fire and held a sit-in in front of the prefecture office. They had
been organized to come here, and those who didn’t take part had to hand
over five yuan. We instructed the county to send staff to investigate
the case. Any township officials found to have had a hand in the
incident will have to face the consequences.”

It is worth noting the official’s use of the term “sit-in.” In China, shangfang
or collective appeals are not encouraged by the government, but are
also not illegal. Calling it a sit-in, however, made it sound like an
action on the edge of legality. But the prefecture government did not
take any action against the peasants. A strained relationship between
the prefecture, and district and township officials, may have helped:
The prefecture attributed the incident to a “black hand” manipulating
the masses. In other words, the peasants were regarded as being the
innocent puppets of a few district and township officials, who were
pulling the strings behind the scenes.

It would break a major taboo in China’s political life if
governments at the grassroots level were found to be inciting the
masses to appeal to higher authorities through collective actions such
as sit-ins. Officials responsible for encouraging such actions would be
severely punished if the case was proved against them. So why did
district and township officials dare to ask the masses to “get money
from above, and food from the hydropower station”? By doing so, it
appeared that Shanyang district and township officials hoped to draw
the prefecture government into the whole complicated hornets’ nest of
the Dahe dam and the calcium-carbide factory; to put further strain on
the relationship between the affected groups and the prefecture
government; and, finally, to have an excuse to punish the elite of the
affected people. In any case, either the prefecture or the county now
realized that the situation had became too urgent to put off action any
longer.

Joy in Baiyang 16

On November 5, 1984, a 14-person work team arrived once again in
Shanyang. The team consisted of representatives from the prefecture’s
Letters and Visits Office, its hydropower bureau, the county party
committee office, government office, committee of inspection and
discipline, auditing bureau and its own Letters and Visits Office. Wang
Jintang, team leader and newly elected vice-governor of Yunyang, was
eager to achieve something in order to show off his ability to deal
with tough issues. This was the first time he had led such a work team,
going down to the grassroots and dealing with “leftover” problems.
During a 12-day stay in Shanyang, the team worked hard at gathering
firsthand information, visiting affected households, and interviewing
local cadres and staff at the Dahe station. The team encouraged all
parties involved to speak freely and frankly.

One of the work team’s greatest successes was to help work out an
agreement on the boundary issue between the Dahe station and Baiyang
16. On November 16, the team held a meeting attended by all villagers
in a classroom at Baiyang primary school. Governor Wang pointed out
that compensation for the 39.6 mu
of cultivated land that had been requisitioned for building the Dahe
dam had already been delivered, based on the policy in force at that
time; that the agreement had been signed by representatives of Baiyang
16 and the hydro station, and that it had to be respected. Hearing
this, the villagers began to express dissatisfaction, and soon there
was a great hubbub in the classroom. Governor Wang gestured for
silence. “The government is aware of your plight, and should make
allowances for your difficulties. For this reason, the work team has
decided to propose additional compensation. Of course, this proposal is
subject to the approval of higher authorities. But today I can tell you
that we have proposed a preliminary plan, which I will now outline for
you.”

His words silenced the noisy crowd. With a smile on his face, he
began listing on the blackboard the new terms being proposed. He said
that although the hydro station had taken over and paid compensation
for the land it needed in 1974, the work team was proposing that the
amount should be recalculated based on 1984 compensation standards. The
difference between the two rates for almost 40 mu
of land came to 30,000 yuan. In addition, the hydro station was
prepared to hand over an additional 2,600 yuan, he said. This meant
that every person in Baiyang 16 would get almost 300 yuan, which was
big money in the countryside at that time. The villagers cheered and
applauded, and someone shouted out: “The government is good and takes
care of the people!”

Governor Wang continued: “But before you get the money, you have to
agree to three conditions. First, the 1,500 yuan you borrowed from the
Dahe station in 1981 will have to be deducted from the total.” Nobody
in the classroom expressed any disagreement with that; the deduction
would not significantly reduce the total. “Second, Tan Wanyuan built a
house on the grounds of the hydro station in July, and the station
won’t pay any of this money unless Tan agrees to withdraw from the area
within 10 days of receiving official notification.”

All eyes in the classroom turned toward Tan Wanyuan. He had indeed
built a house right on the border between the village and the hydro
station, in an attempt to show station officials how strongly local
people felt about the land dispute. At the time, the other villagers
had supported and even encouraged Tan’s plan; now they were worried he
might be an impediment to the wonderful deal they were being offered.
Sensing the pressure he was under, Tan stood up and said haltingly:
“Okay, yes, I will withdraw.”

Governor Wang set out the final condition: “After the meeting, we
ask that you choose several representatives, who, along with staff from
the work team, district and township governments and Dahe station, will
work out the boundary between Baiyang 16 and the station, and then sign
an agreement to that effect. You won’t get the money until the
agreement is signed, and once it’s signed, you can’t back out.” The
villagers began cheering and applauding and shouting out: “Let’s sign,
let’s sign!” and “We’ll never back out, never!”

Soon afterward, the boundary was drawn, the agreement signed, and
the people of Baiyang 16 looked forward with great excitement to their
windfall. The work team had bent the rules (kai kou zi) again,
but this time had achieved the demarcation of a strict boundary line
and resolution of a contentious land dispute. The people of Baiyang 16
were so excited at the thought of the financial compensation that they
didn’t take the time to consider what the boundary line would mean in
practice – that they could have no access to the land on the Dahe
station side.

The managers and workers at the station were delighted to see the
villagers take the money and walk away from the dispute, thus lifting
the threat hanging over them of being the repeated target of disruptive
collective actions. Having signed this agreement, Baiyang 16 was
prevented from returning in future to ask for more compensation. The
work team had done Baiyang 16 a special favour, but in so doing had
also fulfilled its mission of dealing with leftover problems. The team
also dealt with another thorny issue along the way: Zhou Changfa, the
“tireless pest” who had pursued a 10-year campaign to be compensated
for forest land he lost to the dam. The work team saw to it that Zhou
received his compensation.

Developments in the erosion zone

The work team went on to help farmers in the erosion zone with the
hardship they were experiencing, and arranged for the county grain
bureau to deliver a special aid shipment of 100,000 jin
of grain. The team also proposed to higher authorities that the
agricultural tax collected from peasants should be eased or cancelled
altogether in the erosion zone, and that from 1985 on, the fixed quota
of grain required to be handed over to the state should be reduced.
Local people were happy about these developments, but they were still
divided on two big issues: how to distribute among the affected groups
the 100,000 yuan allocated by the prefecture in 1981, and how to
transfer the ownership of the calcium-carbide factory from the local
government to the villages affected by the Dahe dam.

The work team proposed three main ways of distributing the money,
but the groups in the erosion zone could not agree on any of them. In
the absence of a clear consensus, the work team favoured dividing the
funds equally among residents of the erosion zone. This plan had the
backing of a majority of the affected people and was also in line with
the tradition in rural China. The work team submitted this proposal to
the prefecture government for final approval, because it was not
absolutely sure that this was the best method of distributing the
money. The work team also discovered confusion surrounding the accounts
of the calcium-carbide factory, and suggested that before the factory
was transferred from local governments to the villagers, the accounts
should be inspected. But it did not agree with the villagers’ request
to waive the factory’s external debts.

The prefecture government approved the work team’s proposals on
reducing the agricultural tax and fixed grain quotas in the erosion
zone, but made no comment on the fund distribution and factory issues.
The prefecture was well aware that these were contentious and didn’t
want to show favouritism to one side or the other. It was trying to
strike a balance between “bending the rules” and “drawing boundaries”:
Approving the proposals to reduce the agricultural tax and the grain
quota was a goodwill gesture and bending of the rules, while making no
comment on the fund distribution and factory issues was an attempt to
“set boundaries” between itself and the affected people, by leaving
these problems for a subordinate government – the county – to deal
with. Acting this way helped the prefecture government distance itself
from the whirlpool of troubles.

Differences among the villagers over the factory appeared to become
more acute and complicated. In July 1984, inspired by Teacher Xu,
several villagers took some machinery parts away from the factory. In
mid-February 1985, Xu organized a group of people who went to the
factory and threatened to dismantle the homes of anyone who dared to
try to put the factory into operation. However, in early March, in
defiance of this threat, the factory did produce its first batch of
calcium carbide. Teacher Xu learned that a company in the county seat
had agreed to buy tonnes of the product, and he instructed several
villagers to vandalize and immobilize a truck that was preparing to
transport a shipment.

On March 8, while factory managers were meeting to discuss ways of
boosting productivity, Teacher Xu barged in and said: “Before you start
operating this factory, please hand over to us the tens of thousands of
yuan that were embezzled by local cadres.” The meeting fell silent, and
nothing further was said on the issue. Then, while the head of the
factory was away at a conference in the county seat from March 18 to
22, Xu and others created disturbances at the factory, preventing the
workers from operating the machines. Five days later, during a second
meeting at the factory, Xu organized an even larger disturbance there,
which succeeded in halting production. Factory leaders sent several
reports to higher authorities accusing Teacher Xu of wrongdoing, but
the factory never did succeed in producing anything after that initial
batch.

The battle over whether to allow the factory to go into operation
stemmed from the basic divergence of the two main groups of villagers
affected by the dam. One group, led by Teacher Xu and Tailor Wang, had
been trying to get local cadres held accountable for corruption so that
the affected people could receive what was theirs by right, and so that
the protest leaders would not be punished for their role. If the
factory was allowed to go into operation, it would mean the affected
people accepted the situation, and the struggle ought to be abandoned.

But another group of affected people saw the transfer of ownership
of the factory as a victory in the struggle. They didn’t want to pursue
the matter further by supporting more petitions or giving local cadres
a hard time – for one thing, many people in this group had close ties
to those cadres. Furthermore, they felt that once the factory was up
and running, they would be in a position to gain economic benefits from
it.4
Meanwhile, cracks within the bureaucracy were also appearing, with
Shanyang township officials even writing a letter to the China Peasants
Daily [Zhongguo nongmin ribao] criticizing the prefecture’s failure to
disburse the resettlement funds properly because of its bureaucratic
style of work and refusal to listen to local cadres and the masses. In
turn, prefecture vice-commissioner Huang criticized local cadres for
inciting disturbances at the Dahe hydropower station and not doing
enough to sort out the “leftover problems.” He called for “ideological
education” to be strengthened among the local cadres. Commissioner Xu
Zerong, meanwhile, expressed his confidence in local governments’
ability to deal with the problems.

For his part, prefecture party secretary Song Yangxu jotted comments
on an appeal letter (submitted Dec. 9) that were critical of district
and township officials, and recommended the prefecture conduct an
investigation. “I don’t think all the masses’ requests are
unreasonable,” and more trouble will enuse if the issues continue to be
treated carelessly, he wrote. Sending a special work team to Shanyang
seemed a reasonable next step, given Song’s comments, but unfortunately
he was soon transferred to another post and unable to push the idea
forward. When Tailor Wang went to his home to inquire about the status
of the work-team idea, Secretary Song sighed and said: “The tea becomes
cold when the tea-drinker is gone.” The elite of the affected people
took advantage of the differences that had appeared among prefecture
leaders. In particular, by the time Song’s comments filtered down to
local people in Shanyang, the elite had turned them into much stronger
criticisms.5
In this version, the prefecture government had denounced local cadres
for violations of law and discipline, confirmed that villagers’ reports
were all true, expressed great sympathy with their miserable plight,
and called for local cadres’ wrongdoing to be investigated.

Meanwhile, other cracks were appearing on the landscape of the
appeals struggle itself, in areas outside of Shanyang that were also
affected by the Dahe dam. While 11 groups in Shanyang were affected by
land-requisition and erosion problems, many other groups suffered even
greater losses from the submersion because of unexpectedly high water
levels and sedimentation in the upstream area behind the Dahe dam. More
than 50 groups in Xunlu township and 30 groups in Kaixi township,
Bailong county, were affected by these problems.

Inspired by the prefecture government’s moves to resolve the
leftover problems in Shanyang, villagers outside Shanyang who had also
felt the negative impacts of the Dahe dam launched their own petition
campaign. Residents of Xunlu, a township bordering Shanyang upstream of
the dam, became outraged when the leaders of the Shanyang protests
showed them official documents indicating that 500,000 yuan had been
promised to Xunlu in 1981, while the villagers had in fact received
nothing. They were further frustrated by the fact that for years they
had been handing over their grain quota to the state without any
reduction in the levy. Encouraged by the Shanyang villagers’
achievements, the groups in Xunlu felt they should waste no time in
sending their own representatives to the prefecture. The first trip was
fruitless, and the representatives came back empty-handed. In January
1985, the Xunlu representatives tried again and submitted three
demands: that agricultural taxes by reduced or lifted altogether; that
the 500,000 yuan should be recovered and distributed to the affected
groups; and that more compensation should be paid for fields that had
been submerged by the unexpectedly high water levels. This time, the
representatives asked the prefecture and Dahe station officials to
respond to their demands within 10 days, and were disappointed when no
reply was forthcoming by the deadline.

Prefecture officials faced a dilemma. If they bent the rules in
Xunlu, as they had done in Shanyang, the flood of demands that would be
released as a result was likely to be much bigger. The prefecture would
face no end of trouble as groups in the upstream area beyond Xunlu took
heart and, following Xunlu’s example, also pressed for compensation. On
the other hand, if they failed to deal with the problems in Xunlu, the
prefecture would find itself in an embarrassing position, unable to
explain why it had showed favouritism to the people of Shanyang. After
half a year of delays, popular feeling in Xunlu was running high, which
made the prefecture leaders even more anxious. As Song had warned, if
the problems were not resolved, they would fester and lead to
instability. Finally, prefecture officials realized they would have to
confront the leftover problems before they were completely overwhelmed
by them.


Notes:

1 Yunyang county, the
provincial capital Chengdu [Yunyang, now in Chongqing municipality, was
then part of Sichuan province] and Beijing form a geographical
triangle. Tailor Wang travelled first to the provincial capital and
then on to Beijing so as not to give the impression that he was intent
on bypassing the immediate levels of government with his appeal. For
the petitioners, however, Beijing was certainly the most attractive
place to take a complaint, given that it was home to the highest
authorities who have a final say on things. On the one hand, the
central authorities saw petitioners who bypassed lower levels of
government as practising democracy. They welcomed this direct channel
of communication with the masses, which allowed them to overcome the
barriers of bureaucracy and win the trust of ordinary people. On the
other hand, the top leaders were also greatly concerned that a surge in
such petitions could cause trouble for the authorities, and threaten
the social order in provincial capitals and in Beijing itself.

2 After Pu Dezheng handed over
the “white-cloth complaint” to the authorities, Tailor Wang and Teacher
Xu warned him, “We’d like to tear down your house and chop down your
trees!”(Interview with Pu Dezheng) In the affected area, the peasants,
mobilized and organized by the elite, had joined together under the
banner of “when everybody suffers from a disaster, the masses should
unite to fight the tiger.” As Stichweb (1997) has pointed out, in such
extreme circumstances, everyone is categorized as belonging to one of
two sides: friend or foe.

3 In the early 1950s, agencies
from the central government provided food and shelter to petitioners
who arrived in Beijing. In an attempt to maintain social order in the
capital, they also gave them travel allowances so they could return to
their home provinces as quickly as possible. Unexpectedly, these
humanitarian measures failed to reduce the number of petitioners, and
instead encouraged the influx. The authorities decided to increase
their control over the petitioners by establishing special peasant
service centres in the Beijing suburbs, first in the Deshengmen area
and later near the Yongdingmen railway station. Both centres provided
room and board for petitioners, which was free of charge for those who
had letters of introduction from their local government, and low-cost
for those who had no such letter.

Later, in August 1958, the Interior Ministry built a sandstone
factory in another suburb, Lougouqiao, to house those who “willfully
make trouble by coming to Beijing to avail themselves of the travel
allowance and stay in the capital to avoid engaging in farm labour.”
That group was sent to work at the factory “voluntarily,” to earn the
money for their travel expenses home. At the same time, they received
ideological education. The creation of both the peasant reception
centre and the sandstone factory created a relatively separate space
that isolated the petitioners from the city centre. By being there,
they provided cheap labour to ease the state’s financial burdens, while
also helping to relieve public security concerns in the capital. (see
M. Dutton, “Disciplinary projects and carceral spread: Foucauldian
theory and Chinese practice,” Economy and Society, Vol. 21, 1992).

Generally speaking, approaches such as these aimed at clearing the
capital of petitioners are employed mainly to deal with those who carry
out persistent appeals or willfully make trouble. But the capital acts
as a window on the country and its image is important. And so in the
run-up to major events such as Labour Day (May 1) and National Day
(October 1) or foreign leaders’ visits, police and security officials,
and even the elderly women in the street committees, will be mobilized
to “clean up” (qing li) the floating population that has
arrived in the capital from the provinces. Little wonder, then, that
Tailor Wang was detained the minute he set foot in Beijing.

4 Because of the delays in
addressing the peasants’ problems, the elite of the affected people had
time to divide into three groups: One consisted of the legal
representatives of the peasants, the heads of village “groups” [the
successors to the production teams]. Another group, represented by
Liang Yongsheng, focused on obtaining adequate compensation and taking
over the calcium-carbide factory as soon as possible in order to
develop the local economy and create jobs for peasants at the factory.
A third group, represented by Tailor Wang and Teacher Xu, was more
concerned about seeing corrupt local officials punished for their
wrongdoing, and strongly opposed the distribution of the grain
allowance and the factory going into operation. While the three groups
each represented the interests of a segment of the local population,
their leaders added their own personal interests to their group’s
demands. And so conflicts emerged among the different groups, and also
between the groups’ leaders and their followers.

5 In his analysis of rumours,
Tamotsu Shibutani suggested a famous formula: a rumour = (the event’s)
importance x (the event’s) ambiguity. The formula demonstrates how a
rumour is spread widely when people have difficulty obtaining accurate
information about an issue they are deeply concerned about. (See L.
Hunt, Politics, Culture and Class in the French Revolution, 1984).


Chinese units of measurement:

  • mu = 0.067 hectare or 0.165 acre (i.e., about 15 mu to a hectare or six mu to an acre)
  • jin = 500 grams or 1.1 pound

 


Translation edited by Three Gorges Probe (English) editor Kelly Haggart. The on-line publication (in Chinese and English) and translation of this book have been made possible by the Open Society Institute.

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