Bo Xilai outshone by “people’s judge” Zhai Shuquan

Yesterday, August 22nd, Bo Xilai’s trial got underway in Jinan, Shandong Province. Accused of accepting bribes, corruption, and abuse of office, Bo gave a spirited defence of himself while frequent posts on the court’s official Weibo feed sparked animated discussions of the case in the international press corps. The same vivacity has not appeared in today’s domestic coverage of the case. Nonetheless, a speech made by Zhou Qiang, Chief Justice of the Supreme People’s Court, has also made headlines today. Zhou announced that Zhai Shuquan, who hails from rural Nongan County in Jilin province, should be held up as a “model” and a “people’s judge” for his incorruptible comportment and his toughness on corruption regardless of who is in the dock.

Danwei reported back at the end of July that many papers were forced to fill their reporting on Bo’s indictment with a People’s Daily (人民日报) editorial and copy from Xinhua (新华社). This time, it appears that editors at China’s newspapers have been given a fractionally longer leash in their reporting. The Nanjing-based Jinling Evening News (金陵晚报) lists the accusations laid out by the public prosecutor against Bo: taking bribes from Xu Ming, embezzling public funds, and obstructing police investigations. Coverage in this paper also reported that Bo denied the charges, and appeared to be in good physical and mental condition. The report also commented that there was an orderly atmosphere inside the courtroom. There was hardly a mention of the two issues that the Western media coverage of the trial has concentrated on so far: the court’s decision to publish updates via Weibo, and the three-fingered gesture that Bo was apparently making (this was captured on all four front pages that Danwei looked at but was not mentioned in any of the articles). There was also no mention of the small-scale protests launched by Bo Xilai’s supporters in Jinan.

Reporting in the Inner Mongolia Morning Post (内蒙晨报) is almost exactly the same as coverage in the Jinling Evening News, indicating that despite not acknowledging the source of the report, Xinhua may actually have dictated reporting. For the Jilin-based City Evening News (城市晚报), this is the case as their rreporting was limited to Xinhua copy. The East Asia Economic News (东亚精满新闻), also based in Jilin, laid out the charges against Bo on its front page along with a note to turn to page 5 for further reporting. However, upon turning to page 5, we discovered that the Bo story had been replaced by one titled, “Pregnant mothers’ endorsement of breast feeding is our greatest encouragement.”

While the headline coverage of the Bo Xilai trial has been predictably underwhelming,  several papers reported that yesterday, on the same day that Bo’s trial got underway, the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing called for judges throughout China to study the example of one Zhai Shuquan. Zhai is a deputy judge at the Nongan County People’s Court outside of Changchun.

According to the East Asia Economic News, 200 judges gathered yesterday at the Jilin Provincial Higher Court to watch remarks made by Supreme Court Chief Justice Zhou Qiang. Zhou said that Zhai Shuquan embodied the Communist Party’s people-orientated, pragmatic and upstanding style. Zhou added that Zhai is a model for judges and policemen throughout China. Following the screening, many of the justices made statements praising Zhai.  Zhang Deyou of the Changchun Intermediary People’s Court told the City Evening News, “I will study Zhai Shuquan’s indifference to material gains as well as his noble and incorruptible character. I value to the highest of highs the honor and dignity of this people’s judge.” Similarly, Chief Justice Wang Changsong of the Jilin Province Upper People’s Court told the East Asia Economic News, “All judges and policemen throughout this province will seek to emulate Zhai Shuqian in striving to be fair and incorruptible men of the law.”

What the reports on “Study from Zhai Shuquan” fail to mention is exactly why this unassuming judge from rural Jilin is being held up as an example to emulate for judges and justices from across China. There is an oblique reference in the East Asia Economic News coverage: several times, the incorruptible Zhai is described as “down to earth” (朴实) even after coming to the bright lights of Beijing, a stark contrast with Bo Xilai and his characterization as a man who lived the high life thanks to his corrupt activities. While there is no mention of Zhai Shuquan in the international media, an English-language wire story in the Chinese state media sheds further light as to the reasons behind Zhai’s “modelization” The report says. “Zhai has helped to defuse many conflicts and helped maintain social stability in Nongan County in northeast China, gaining popularity from the public.” On a day when the divisive Bo Xilai appeared in the dock, it is unlikely that the story of Zhai Shuquan is a mere coincidence.

Sources and Links
Jinling Evening News (金陵晚报): 薄熙来否认受贿指控
Inner Mongolia Morning Post (内蒙晨报) 薄熙来案昨日开庭审理
East Asia Economic News (东亚经贸新闻) 全国法官要向翟树全学习孕妈妈对母乳喂养的认同是对我们最大的鼓励
City Evening News (城市晚报): 最高法号召全国法院学习翟树全
People’s Daily Online English Edition (人民网英文版): Chief Justice calls for integrity among judicial officials

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