Three Gorges Probe

The Story of the Dahe Dam: Chapter 8

Ying Xing
March 9, 2005

 

Chapter 8: Good guys and bad apples

“The top leaders in Beijing are our benefactors, the
provincial leaders are like our family members, there are good
officials at the prefecture, there are more bad eggs than good at the
county – while all local cadres at the township level are our enemies.”
– A Yunyang county folk song

The elite of the affected people in the five upstream groups
convened a conference in mid-1986 to discuss whether to continue the
appeals to higher authorities. Detailed and rather formal minutes were
kept, indicating the importance attached to the meeting.

Date: June 26, 1986

Venue: The home of Zhou Jixing

Participants:

Liuping 4: Zheng Lifu, Huang Guangfu, Xu Shaohua, Wen Zhifu, Li Xuqing, Xiang Xingjun
Liuping 5: Yan Shouxiang, Yan Fusong, Liang Yinji, Yan Fucai
Baiyang 14: Yao Longshi, Liang Yongwu, Jiang Youheng
Baiyang 13: Wu Qixian
Mingyue 13: Wu Mingqing
Mingyue 6: Wang Xueping

Agenda:

Wang Xueping and Yao Longshi talked about the appeals to
the prefecture, and the discussion centred on whether to pursue them
any further — and if so, who would represent each group and how to
finance the appeals.

Resolutions:

  1. Delegates agreed unanimously to continue the actions.
  2. Main focus of the appeals:
    a) Resettlement funds promised by governments
    b) Relief fund for the 1982 floods
    c) Funds for family-planning programs
    d) Funds earmarked for water conservancy as a whole.
  3. Representatives from each group:
    Liuping 4: Zheng Lifu, Huang Guangfu, Xu Shaoguo and Xiang Xingjun
    Liuping 5: Yan Shouxiang, Liang Yinji, Yan Fucai and Yan Fusong
    Baiyang 14: Yao Longshi, Liang Yongwu and Jiang Youheng
    Baiyang 13: Wu Qixian, Liu Daiming and Liang Yongting
    Mingyue 6: Wang Xueping, Wang Xueguo and Yu Qimeng
    Mingyue 13: Wu Mingqing, Zhao Guangzhu and Yu Qidao
    Head of the appeals group: Wang Xueping Deputies: Wu Qixian, Yao
    Longshi, Liang Yongwu, Yan Shouxiang, Zheng Lifu and Wu Mingqing.
  4. On financing the appeals:
    a) Representatives’ actual travel expenses will be reimbursed.
    b) A per diem of 2 yuan will be granted to compensate representatives for lost workdays.
    c) A per diem of 1.2 yuan will be granted for those who attend representative conferences.
    d) Economic losses caused by activities related to the appeals will be compensated.
    e) Decisions will be made at representative conferences and approved by
    the masses. No individual representative is allowed to make a statement
    without this authority.
    f) Work-point recorders: Zheng Yifu and Jiang Youheng.
    g) All representatives must attend the representative meetings on time. No absences will be allowed.

Note taker: Xu Shaohua
[The official seals of the five groups and signatures or seals of about 100 people appear at the end of the memo.]

These minutes looked much like the standardized memos issued after a
government conference, indicating that the elite of the affected people
in Shanyang had begun to pursue their campaign in a highly organized
and sophisticated way. At the meeting, they agreed on a two-tier
organizational structure, comprising the representative conference and
the leadership group, which would act as a standing committee in
between the full meetings of the representatives. Tailor Wang was in
charge of the leadership group. Some veterans, such as Wu Qixian,
continued as key members of this leading group, while others, such as
Liang Yonggang and Liang Yongde, were replaced with more highly
educated representatives, such as Yao Longshi, Liang Yongwu and Jiang
Youheng from Baiyang 14.

Teacher Xu did not attend the conference; nor was he included in the
list of representatives. But he was still able to have a hand in the
direction of the conference through his influence on Tailor Wang. And
he could also get information about the conference through his brother,
Wang Xueguo, who was a formal delegate at the meeting. By taking
advantage of their personal influence, both Teacher Xu and Tailor Wang
were able to turn their own views into collective ones, which would
gain legitimacy within the elite group and the representative
conference as a whole.

The meeting also laid out the financial terms for the
representatives and members of the leadership group. The minutes did
not specify where the money would come from to cover these costs, but,
as I later learned, there were two main income streams: money collected
from the peasants in the five upstream groups, and from the assets of
the calcium-carbide factory. Especially at a later stage of the appeals
campaign, the assets of the factory became an important revenue source.

Finally, the conference defined the fundamental goal of the appeals
as being “to bring down the district and township governments” through
sustained collective actions. For this reason, the appeals would focus
on the issue of official corruption, and materials would be gathered on
the misuse and embezzlement of funds disbursed by the higher levels of
government over the past few years. And indeed, the appeals did become
more sharply focused on these funds, such as the money allocated by the
Dahe station, the relief funds after the 1982 floods, the funds
earmarked for family-planning programs and for water conservancy
projects. In so doing, the elite group was trying to gather evidence to
help them bring to justice local cadres who they were convinced were
corrupt.

Why did the elite group call this conference to discuss whether to
pursue the appeals? A number of the affected people had begun to
question the wisdom and necessity of continuing the petition campaign,
given that even the three-township joint appeal to Beijing had failed
in its two main objectives of bringing corrupt local officials to
justice and bringing more benefits to the people of Shanyang. Some
peasants even cast doubt on whether the representatives who travelled
to Beijing had given a truthful account of their trip. Though the
representatives claimed to have met at Zhongnanhai with a beloved
leader who promised to help out, some villagers began to question
whether this had happened and to lose confidence in the appeals process.

On the other hand, the elite group was disappointed by the peasants’
complaints and lack of trust in their efforts. They had devoted
themselves to the appeals for the sake of the people and were not in it
for personal gain. They had put in so much hard work, but had little to
show for it. They took huge risks and suffered a great deal to do a
dangerous job, but had not won the peasants’ complete trust. It was
beginning to feel like a thankless task. For the elite group, the
ultimate goal was to bring down corrupt local cadres. And so they
called the conference to clear up the peasants’ mounting doubts about
the appeals process, and to persuade the people, and their
representatives, that it really was worth continuing the struggle

Factory fight intensifies

In July 1986, Tailor Wang travelled to the provincial capital,
Chengdu, for the fourth time. There he managed to see Li Chaoqing, the
provincial official in charge of Dahe station affairs. Li told Tailor
Wang that a provincial work team had intended to go to Shanyang but the
prefecture had stopped them, saying the prefecture had the ability to
sort out the problems on its own. Listening now to Wang’s report, Li
expressed his disappointment that the prefecture had still not resolved
the contentious issues, but he felt it would be difficult for him to do
anything about that as this stage.

Although he did not get what he wanted from the provincial
government, Tailor Wang did not feel too despondent about his failed
mission. In fact, he had gained confidence from the trip to Chengdu. He
came away with the feeling that, at the very least, provincial
officials were still concerned about the people’s plight. The elite of
the affected people regarded leaders at the government levels above the
prefecture as “family members,” while local cadres at the district and
township levels were seem as being totally corrupt. They felt that the
prefecture and county levels contained both good and bad officials.
More precisely, what the elite of the affected wanted to do was to line
up the support of a certain political fraction and not really to
distinguish upright officials from corrupt officials.

In September, Tailor Wang, along with two other representatives,
made another excursion to Beijing. Unlike the first dramatic trip to
the capital, this one was relatively uneventful. The Central
Committee’s Letters and Visits Office received their petitions, then
gave them three train tickets and asked them to go home. They didn’t
return home directly, however, but stopped off in Chengdu, where they
actually achieved more than anticipated. A secretary to one of the main
provincial leaders received them warmly, and told them the provincial
leader had written comments on the appeals submitted by the Shanyang
petitioners.

On the evening of October 3, Tailor Wang also paid a visit to
prefecture party secretary Song Yangqu at his home. Song was surprised
to learn of the sustained campaign by the people of Shanyang and
puzzled that the problems remained unresolved. Song also said to Tailor
Wang, without giving it much thought: “The calcium-carbide factory was
built to alleviate the hardships being suffered in Shanyang, and so it
should by rights belong to the people there, and not to the Dahe
station.” Tailor Wang became very excited when he heard those words. He
felt as if he had been handed an imperial sword with which to land a
decisive blow against the prefecture and county officials.

On October 29, a county work team headed by Governor Wang arrived in
Shanyang to deliver Document No. 39, which had been issued by the
prefecture in May, and to transfer ownership of the calcium-carbide
factory to the Dahe station. Why did the county wait more than five
months before disseminating the document? It was quite extraordinary,
in the Chinese political context, for a subordinate level of government
to delay for so long passing on to the grassroots a decree issued by a
superior administrative level.

The delay appears to have been deliberate. The county was unhappy
with the document, especially the fact that the prefecture had
dramatically lowered the grain allowance for the five upstream groups
in Shanyang. Originally, Shanyang township had proposed a grain
allowance of 790,000 jin. Later the county lowered the figure to 170,000 jin, but the prefecture approved only 81,000 jin,
less than half the amount the county had requested. County officials
were worried that the compensation package was too meagre to appease
the disgruntled villagers.

On October 30, the work team convened a meeting in the morning that
was attended by the leaders of villages and groups, followed by a mass
assembly in the afternoon. The villagers at the larger gathering fell
into two camps: The three downstream groups agreed with the
prefecture’s plan, while the five upstream groups argued strongly
against handing over the factory to the Dahe station. The next morning,
the work team tried to invite factory leaders to another meeting, but
the leaders of the five upstream groups refused to participate. On the
third day, the work team called a meeting of the villagers in the five
upstream groups, in the hopes of reaching a consensus on the
factory-transfer issue. Governor Wang told the assembled villagers:
“Document No. 39 was approved not only by the province but also by the
highest authorities in Beijing. So whatever you folks feel about it,
you’ll have to comply. Anyone who disagrees with it should write down
their name.”

Tailor Wang was among those who spoke up against the prefecture’s
decision to hand the factory over to the hydropower station. He
mentioned Secretary Song’s comment that the villagers deserved to own
the factory. Then his brother, Wang Xueguo, declared excitedly, “We
will protect the calcium-carbide factory with our lives!” Somebody from
Mingyue 16 said: “There’s no way we’ll hand over the factory. We’ll
appeal about this to the higher authorities again and again. You
officials only come up with solutions after we’ve created a
disturbance. Everybody knows that making a disturbance is the best way
to get things addressed.” The son of Wu Qixian, a veteran
representative of the affected people, yelled out: “The document is a
fake, concocted by Zhang Liandao [director of the Wanxian resettlement
office]. Let’s go all the way to the State Council to resolve this
matter.”

Many of villagers demanded that the prefecture should hand over the
300,000 yuan in compensation they were owed before they would allow the
Dahe station to assume control of the factory. Others issued a warning
to Feng Deqing, the head of the hydro station, “If you agree to take
over the factory, several hundred of us will arrive to eat at your
canteen.” Most of the 200 villagers at the meeting remained silent
while a small group of people kept arguing with the work team, growing
increasingly angry. The work team decided the villagers were too
divided for the meeting to be productive and called a halt to it
without any consensus having been reached.

On November 5, the work team submitted a report to the prefecture,
pointing out the contradiction between Document No. 39 and Secretary
Song’s stated view that the factory should belong to the people.
Document No. 39, ordering the transfer of the factory to the Dahe
station, could not be implemented without tough measures being taken,
the report said.

The elite of the affected people were feeling more confident now
than with previous collective actions because they knew that provincial
leaders were really concerned about their plight and that they had the
backing of Song, the prefecture party secretary. In general,
higher-level leaders made comments “in principle,” from a macro point
of view, while officials at the lower levels had to come up with
solutions to specific problems, after an often difficult process of
negotiation and compromise with the complainants. It was no wonder,
therefore, that the peasants regarded high-level officials as being
upright and honourable as they worked – at a distance – on the
important affairs of state. It was the lower-level officials local
people grew to detest and to view as corrupt, as they worked close by,
dealing with actual grassroots problems.

The affected people also distinguished among individual leaders.
They set Party Secretary Song, who had expressed concern for their
situation, apart from the rest of the prefecture leadership, whom they
held responsible for Document No. 39. They also tended to see Dong
Guoguang as a beloved “upright official,” even though he was the deputy
commissioner of that same prefecture. In the villagers’ eyes,
Commissioner Dong was a person of integrity, who was concerned about
the hardships suffered by ordinary people. Even though Dong was
extremely busy and didn’t visit Shanyang often, the peasants trusted
him because of his affable, approachable manner.

The villagers’ high regard for Dong raises the question: Why did the
elite of the affected people in the five upstream groups refuse to
comply with Document No. 39, even though they knew Dong supported the
policy outlined in the document? The elite attributed the problems to
Zhang Liandao, Commissioner Dong’s secretary, and believed that Zhang
was a mean person who did pernicious things behind Dong’s back. Not
only did the elite want to distinguish the prefecture’s party
commission from the prefecture government, but also to differentiate
between Dong and Zhang within the prefecture government. This was
apparent in an appeal submitted by the elite of the five upstream
groups on November 3:

“In the summer of 1985, Commissioner Dong braved the
blazing heat to conduct an inspection tour in Shanyang on his own. We
were very moved and impressed by this, and he enjoys the warm support
of the people. But after Dong’s departure, Zhang Liandao, a prefecture
section chief, dealt with our problems in a completely different way.
He was reluctant to deal with local officials involved in cases of
corruption related to the embezzlement of funds earmarked for the
resettlement schemes.”

The decision to transfer the factory to the Dahe station became
hotly disputed. Governments at the county, district and township
levels, together with the three downstream groups, supported the idea.
But the five upstream groups were strongly opposed, and insisted on
owning and operating the enterprise themselves. The prefecture,
meanwhile, had been vacillating on the issue. The Dahe station would do
a much better job of running the factory. On the other hand, handing
the enterprise over to the five upstream groups would go a long way
toward appeasing their anger and bringing the disturbances under
control. Commissioner Dong felt that no basic principle of the
prefecture government would be violated either way. But he drew a firm
distinction between the five upstream groups and the three downstream
groups: The latter must have nothing to do with the factory because
they lived outside the “scouring zone” of the Dahe dam.

Knowing that the prefecture had taken a flexible approach on the
issue, the elite of the five upstream groups decided to strike while
the iron was hot. They submitted a letter to the prefecture, demanding
a series of stringent conditions:

  • bank loans taken out by the factory should be forgiven;
  • both the prefecture and county should inject more money into the factory to upgrade the equipment;
  • after
    going into operation, the factory should not be obliged to provide
    funds for the grain allowance outlined in Document No. 39;
  • after an audit of the district and township accounts, the balance should be invested in the factory;
  • the Dahe dam should guarantee a full year of electricity at a preferential price;
  • factory
    managers should be chosen by the villagers in the five upstream groups,
    and nobody would have the right to intervene in this decision;
  • the factory should be exempt from taxes for two or three years; and so on and so forth.

With approval from Commissioner Dong, the prefecture issued Document
No. 81 on December 10, 1986, formally agreeing to transfer the factory
to the five upstream groups and to invest in the factory all existing
funds belonging to it that sat in the township’s bank account. But the
prefecture rejected the groups’ other demands as unreasonable.

However, the prefecture’s attempt to implement Document No. 81 in
Shanyang met with failure. The three downstream groups strongly opposed
it and insisted the prefecture should stick with Document No. 39, which
it had issued 10 months earlier. The five upstream groups, while
favouring the newer policy, demanded ownership of the factory be
transferred to them, with their conditions met. Exasperated, the county
suggested that coercive measures should be taken to get either document
implemented.

On May 4, 1987, the elite of the affected people went to the
prefecture to see Commissioner Dong, who restated his position that the
three downstream groups had no right to the factory. Then he called
county officials, and told them he wanted to see the five upstream
groups running the factory, and that they should see that this happened
as soon as possible. But the county, fearing that this policy would not
put an end to the unrest, tried to delay its implementation. The elite
of the affected people once again attributed the problems to Zhang
Liandao, Commissioner Dong’s secretary, who they believed was backing
the county’s attempts to delay the factory transfer.

Three days later, the elite of the five upstream groups submitted an
extraordinary letter to the prefecture, accusing Zhang Liandao of
various wrongdoings dating back to his first involvement with the Dahe
dam in July 1985. The letter contained a list of eight charges against
him. But this time, out of political naivet≈Ω, the elite of the affected
people had misjudged the situation. They were unaware of the extremely
tight relationship between a Chinese leader and his secretary. In
trying to set Dong apart from Zhang, to treat one as a good guy and the
other as a bad apple, they displayed a lack of understanding of the
closeness of the two officials’ relationship and, more generally, about
how politics works in China. Indeed, as I learned from an internal
promotion document, Zhang Liandao was bumped up two ranks – from
section chief to vice-director of the general office of the prefecture
– just 16 days after the elite of the affected people lodged the above
complaint about him.

Two trump cards

Document No. 39 failed to satisfy people in the five upstream groups
for two main reasons. The elite of the affected people were unhappy
that the document did not touch on the issue of official corruption,
and worried that this omission left them open to future retaliation
from local cadres. And villagers felt it was unfair not to include in
the compensation package fields that were eroded after 1978. The
peasants tried everything they could think of to solve these two
problems, as indicated by the following anecdotes involving two short
notes.

The first note was written by Commissioner Dong. During negotiations
with the prefecture on the transfer of the factory, the elite of the
five groups proposed that the plant’s assets should be reassessed
before any handover. Eager to get the factory back in operation,
Commissioner Dong agreed to the suggestion. On May 7, Tailor Wang and
Jiang Youheng submitted a report prepared by several appraisal experts.
Dong approved the report and wrote the following memo:

“Jiang Youheng and Wang Xueping submitted a report
assessing the total value of the factory at 139,450.6 yuan (excluding a
truck and some other items). In order to resume production at the
factory as soon as possible, the transfer dispute needs to be resolved.
In my view, this figure can be taken as reflecting the fixed assets at
the factory. I hope the relevant departments will support resumption of
production at the factory according to both Documents No. 39 and No.
81.

Dong Guoguang (May 10, 1987)”

Tailor Wang explained why he became as excited about this memo as if he had found a treasure:

“This little note confirmed that embezzlement and other
corrupt practices had occurred in relation to the factory. The factory
was said to have cost 420,000 yuan to set up, but the actual assets
were worth less than 200,000 yuan, including the truck and everything
else. This means that the difference between the two figures – more
than 200,000 yuan – had been embezzled, stolen, seized by local cadres.
There was no doubt about it now, because we had the hard evidence of
Dong’s brief memo. I knew how important the note was, so I kept it in
my pocket.”

Commissioner Dong never expected that the short note he wrote to
urge a quick resumption of production at the factory would be used in
this way, as hard evidence of corruption.

Another brief memo, this time written by engineer Feng Mingyue,
caused the authorities yet more embarrassment. After Zhu the engineer’s
departure, Feng became Wanxian prefecture’s resident representative in
Shanyang. Although the peasants were demanding compensation for fields
that were eroded by the Dahe dam after 1978, the prefecture insisted
that only 200 mu
of farmland was affected and eligible for compensation. But later,
after persistent requests from the five upstream groups, Feng and his
colleagues measured an additional 111 muof fields that had been eroded after 1978. More importantly, Feng also recorded this figure in a short memo. As Feng recalled:

“It was a total con. The locals from the upstream groups
came to see me and said they needed help sorting out a dispute that had
arisen over how to determine the number of people from the five
upstream groups who would be eligible for employment in the factory.
They asked us to measure the newly eroded farmland so that the figure
could be used in calculating this employment issue. I agreed to their
request, measured the farmland and put the figure in a note. I told
them again and again that the figure could only be used in the specific
dispute about job numbers. But you know what? No sooner had the
peasants received the note than they went to the government and
demanded more compensation for those additional, eroded fields. They
stressed the fact that these calculations had come from me, though they
never dared mention that in my presence.”

I tried but failed to find the note Feng had written. It appeared
that the elite of the affected people attached such importance to it
that they hid it somewhere safe. They never stopped claiming that the
prefecture work team had measured an extra 111 mu
of eroded fields. And from then on, the affected people felt justified
in taking a more uncompromising stance in their campaign because of the
two trump cards they held in the form of one short note written by
Commissioner Dong and another by Feng the engineer.

On the eve of the storm

In June 1987, Tailor Wang and Teacher Xu travelled to the prefecture
to see Commissioner Dong. The visit turned out to be the prelude to a
major event. Tailor Wang recalls the meeting:

“In June of 1987, Teacher Xu and I went to see Commissioner
Dong. I said: ‘Commissioner Dong, you have been to Shanyang and met
with the masses. And we ourselves have travelled to the provincial
capital and to Beijing many times, asking for help. But what we have
done always just seemed to bring shame not only on the governments, but
also on ourselves. As you know, we have no choice but to do these
things. You have budgeted so much money on our behalf but we ordinary
people have benefited so little from it, and I believe the people
deserve to get what they’re owed. Commissioner Dong, we ask that you go
once again to Shanyang. We really hope you can clear up this whole
mess.’

“Commissioner Dong thought over this request for a long time, then
consulted the calendar and said: ‘Okay, on July 26, I’ll go there with
a work team.’ We trusted Dong, but I still expressed some doubt that he
would make the trip. ‘I mean what I say,’ he assured us. So I said:
‘I’d like to make it clear to you, Commissioner, that 200 people will
descend on the Dahe station asking for food if you fail to resolve our
problems by August 1.’

“Why ask for food from the station? Because we really are having difficulty surviving. And why 200 people? Because 200 mu
of our fields have been washed away by the Dahe dam, so this would be
one person for every mu of land lost. I told Dong that if he failed to
show up as promised, we would send a serious, formal statement to the
State Council, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline
Inspection, the Supreme Court and Supreme Procuratorate, the Ministry
of Public Security and other relevant departments. We would also send
an open letter to the governments at the provincial and prefectural
levels. And I repeated to Dong that we would take 200 people to eat at
the Dahe station if he didn’t show up and sort things out for us by
August 1.

“Dong again vowed to turn up on the appointed date, and so we went
back home and everyone began looking forward to his arrival. Whenever
someone saw a car approaching, they’d get excited, thinking it was him.
But it never was. Commissioner Dong didn’t show up.”

A representative conference was held on July 7, and the decision was
taken that 200 people would be mobilized to eat at the Dahe station on
August 1 if nobody from the prefecture had turned up by then. Tailor
Wang and Teacher Xu were aware that such an event could get out of
hand, so they laid down three ground rules: While at the station, there
was to be no scuffling and no swearing at anyone. Nobody was to go to
the powerhouse or interfere in any way with the electricity generation.
And there was to be no damage done to public property.

The representatives also agreed that a petition would be launched
immediately afterward if the action at the station failed to achieve
results, and the money to finance the petition would be collected from
the affected peasants. At a second representative conference a week
later, payments were approved for Teacher Xu and for those who would be
on guard duty during the occupation of the station.

On July 25, the peasants were all quietly excited about Commissioner
Dong’s promised arrival. But had he been too busy to make the trip? Did
he forget about the appointment, or had he never intended to keep it,
but just made the undertaking to get Tailor Wang and Teacher Xu out of
his office that day? In any case, the next day Tailor Wang sent a
formal statement warning the governments at the central, provincial and
prefectural levels that the prefecture was expected to address the
people’s problems before August 1. Wang went to the prefecture on July
28 to submit the statement in person, but Commissioner Dong wasn’t
there and nobody at the prefecture paid any attention to him. On July
29, the county party standing committee held a meeting, but the Dahe
issue was never raised.

On the morning of July 31, the heads of the five upstream groups and
several other representatives went to the station to see the manager.
They warned him that 200 people would descend on the station the
following day. In the afternoon, a third representative conference was
held at Jiang Youheng’s home to discuss the next day’s action. The main
conflict was to be defined as a struggle between the affected people
and corrupt cadres. Several representatives would go into the station
first, then the masses were to follow in orderly fashion. Before going
to the station, Huang Guangfu would review for participants the whole
story of how the 300,000 yuan in resettlement compensation had
vanished, and then Tailor Wang would talk about the results of the
previous petitions.

At the meeting, one of the representatives declared: “I’m going to
lie down on the sluice gate and prevent the station from producing
power!” Teacher Xu responded immediately: “Oh my God, don’t you dare!
The station is doing its business of generating electricity, while you
must do your business of petitioning the authorities. However, I’d have
no objection if you felt you might like to eat some steamed bread while
you’re at the station.” Everyone laughed at this suggestion. Tailor
Wang repeated the three ground rules, and stressed that anyone who
broke them would have to take responsibility for the consequences.

Then Teacher Xu elaborated on his own comment: “Look, I didn’t ask
you guys to eat the station’s steamed bread; I don’t want them coming
to blame me for this the next day. I don’t want to touch their bread,
and I’m not asking you to do so either. But if you care to do so, it
won’t really be any of my business.” He had the whole room rocking with
laughter at this, and it was in this laughter that the plan to eat
steamed bread at the station was born.

While the peasants were engaged in intense preparations for their
protest, the district and township governments seemed to be
unconcerned, and even to be looking the other way. Indeed, it was
business as usual at the district, and while the village
representatives were meeting to plan the mass action at the hydropower
station, district officials had also gathered – at a conference called
to discuss the need to foster “spiritual civilization.”


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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