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China: Eluding the Cat Investigation, Netizen's Power or Government PR?

In response to the netizens’ talks and comments about the “eluding cat” incident, the Yunnan provincial Publicity Department's Press and Publication Administration decided to form an investigative committee on Feb 20. Moreover, the department had invited netizens to form a investigative committee. In a few hours, 510 netizens registered to be involved in the committee, and the Yunnan government randomly selected 8 netizens and public members as part of the committee, together with 3 official representatives and 3 media representatives. The incident of course shows how netizens’ power in giving pressure to the government, however, many doubt the investigative committee being a PR show for cooling down the public discontent.

Eluding the cat incident

ESWN has translated “eluding the cat” incident on 17 of Feb. In brief, a young Yunnan man Li Qiaoming was arrested for illegal logging in Beicheng town. He was then seriously injured in the detention center in Feb 8 and died in four days because of brain injury. The police report said that he ran into a wall when he was playing “eluding the cat” game with other jail mates.

The whole story was so incredible and netizens started to use “eluding the cat” in their online jokes.

Internet popular terms are very powerful in China, earlier on we have Weng'an “push ups”, and it has discredited local government even though the final report came out and showed that local police hadn't lie about the incident – the suspect was doing push ups on the bridge when the girl drowned herself in the river.

Recruiting netizens for investigation

In order to prevent history from recurring, the Yunnan publicity department acted on it by inviting netizens to do investigation (via ESWN). Netizen, end of the wind, was appointed as the head of the netizen committee, while marginal citizen, as the deputy.

End of the wind reported in cat898 forum (in Feb 19) to other netizens about his appointment and swore that he would try his best to find out the truth:

今天下午4点左右,我得知云南省委宣传部要组建网友和社会各界人士的调查委员会,调查发生在昆明晋宁县公安局看守所发生24岁的云南玉溪北城镇男子李乔明“躲猫猫”死亡事件。我马上拨打了公告上的报名电话。

有可能我是第一个打电话报名的,电话一打就通了,工作人员记录了我的网名、真实姓名、身份、电话、QQ号。据说之后的电话都打到爆。

到了晚上10点半,我在云南网上看到了调查委员会的名单,很意外,我成了委员会主任

This afternoon at about 4pm, I heard from the Yunnan publicity department that they wanted to form an investigative committee on the death of 24 years old Li Qiaoming in Yunan Yuxi Beicheng town detention center while playing “eluding the cat”. I made the phone call immediately according to the notice.

Probably I was the first to make the call for registration, the line got through in my first call. The officer written down my avatar, my real name, my identity, phone number, QQ number. Later the line is all jammed.

At around 10:30, I saw the investigator list on the Yunnan net and surprisingly, I became the head of the netizen committee.

今夜,我将无眠。因为直到现在,没有任何云南官方的人对我提出明天这个调查将如何进行的要求,甚至行程安排。我将会在明天见到参与调查的成员时一起商议具体的安排。

但是,我不知道,我们提出的程序安排,是否会得到官方的同意。根据网上网友们的反映,与及我自己的想法,我已经拟出了一条条方案,但这个方案还要和明天的其他成员商量,最后的方案能不能得到实施,还要看公安部门认不认可。

Tonight, I will be sleepless. Up till now, no government official told me how the investigation would be conducted, I had no idea about the schedule. I would discuss with other investigators tomorrow about the arrangement.

However, I don't know whether or not the government would accept our schedule demand. I have a plan according to my netizens’ friend and my own idea, however, I need to discuss with others. Whether or not it works, depends on the police department's approval.

Why publicity department?

There are up till now 43 pages of comments in the post. Many said that the Yunnan government is being open minded for recruiting netizens into the committee, some pointed out that it is not the task of “publicity department” to conduct an investigation.

Eye medicine said

忽悠谁???调查一个疑似刑事案件为什么宣传部组织???什么意思??一群乌合之众你们采取什么科学手段??调查结果有什么说服力??就算你们是民间的你们怎么保证看到的就是真的??你们做的一切毫无意义!!!洗洗睡吧

What are you trying to lure? How come a propaganda department would take up a criminal case's investigation? What does it mean? A bunch of dark birds, how can you be scientific? Will the report be convincing? Even though you are from the civil sector, how can you ensure what you see is the real? you are doing meaningless thing, why don't you take a shower and sleep early?

Ba la said:

偶觉得:现场状况无法还原,就剩下同玩伙伴的口述和尸体。其中口述最不可靠,尸检报告一旦和警察有关,就更加的不可靠。你此行意义人家早算计好了,为警察的说法作佐证。不过还有万一,这就要靠运气和知识丰富了。

My feeling is that: it is impossible to restore the crime scene, what we got is the jail mates testimony and the corp. The testimony is not reliable, and the post-mortem report once it involves the police, is more unreliable. They have all that in calculation, with proof to support the police's report. Of course, accident happens, and it depends on luck and your knowledge.

7322740:

在看守所里、被拘留的人还能“玩猫猫”、玩游戏、真开心,看看有多少愿意去的?咱们大家都一齐去、到那去开心娱乐去。警察大人真会逗人呀。这种鬼话,说给鬼都不会相信的。

In a detention center, under arrest, and they can still play “eluding the cat”? so happy to play game? let's see who want to go there? Let's go there together, for fun and entertainment. The police are such a joke. What kind of ghost story is this? even ghost won't believe.

Investigation Day

At 8:30am, Feb 20, the investigation committee had their hearing at the Jinning policy station. It is more like a press release with netizen participation, as according to local report (reposted by gzjiangxia008):

8日17时50分许,普某某、李某某、余某某等6人趁民警依照规定刚巡视过后,在监室放风间内擅自玩起了“瞎子摸鱼”(即“躲猫猫”)游戏,由李荞明先蒙住眼睛当瞎子摸其余5人,在游戏过程中普某某首先被李荞明摸到,随后李荞明拉着普某某的手要求换人,普某某认为游戏还未开始与李荞明发生争执。普某某用脚踢在李的胸腹部,又一拳打在李头部左侧,致使蒙着眼睛未能防备的李荞明头部猛撞在监室门框上受伤。

XXX部门承认,李荞明死在看守所,xxx负有责任。该县XXX局分管刑侦的副局长达琦明表示:未发现民警有工作失误,案情调查清楚后,愿接受问责。

In Feb 8, around 17:50, Pu, Li, Yu and six other detainers played “eluding the cat” game after the police had their routine check. Li Qiaoming tied his eyes and tried to catch other five, in the process, Pu was caught by Li and Li asked to exchange the role. Pu said that the game hadn't been started and argued with Li. Pu then kicked Li on his chest and hit him on the left side of his head with his fist, which resulted in Li's head hitting on the frame of the door and thus caused the injury.

The police department admitted that they have to be responsible for Li's death in the detention center. However the deputy of the police department in the county said that they have not found any error in the police's work, and they would be willing to take up responsibility according to the result of the investigation.

调查委副主任“边民”说,成员们要求会见导致李荞明死亡的普某某及当日在场的室友,但是该县检察院副检察长认为“按法律规定,这样的会见不合程序”,遂遭遇拒绝。此外,调查委要求查看监控录像。但是,官方回答“有记录无记录,无法回答;据保密要求和相关法律规定,调查委查看录像不在法律范围内”。

“边民”总结:这个特别的调查委法律权限不清晰,并不是大家设想一般,什么都可以看到。

The deputy of the investigation team “marginal citizen” said, members wanted to see Pu and other detainers who were in the jail with Li Qiaoming, but the deputy chief justice in the county said that according to the law, such kind of interview is not procedural and rejected their demand. The committee also requested to see the Close circuit television, the government said that they could disclose whether such tapes exist or not, according to regulations and non-disclosure principle, what they are demanding is not within the law.

Marginal Citizen concluded that: As the committee doesn't have a clear role in the legal system, unlike what people have been imagining, there isn't much for us to see.

Show for a Lie?

My opinion (via inmediahk.net) is that the propaganda department is trying to prevent a public opinion bomb from being exploding but it in turn challenges the credibility of police and justice department. According to BBC's report:

据新浪网的网上调查显示,截至20日凌晨,87.1%的网民认为,”躲猫猫”致死的解释不可思议,肯定是谎言;有8.2%的网民说,”躲猫猫”致死虽然不可思议,但也许是真相;只有1.3%的网民说,”躲猫猫”致死应该是真相。

在如何看待云南邀请网友参与调查的问题上,49.7%的网民认为有作秀之嫌,网民作用有待观察;45.5%的网民认为,此举有创意,能够扩大民主,体现调查的公开和透明。

According to Sina's online poll, up till midnight of 20, 87.1% netizens found the explanation of “eluding the cat” incredible, and believed that it must be a lie; 8.2% found the explanation incredible but believed that it might be the truth; only 1.3% believe d the explanation should be the truth.

As for the invitation of Yunnan Netizen to participate in the investigation, 49.7% netizens believed that it is probably a show and it is yet to see the effect of the participation. 45.5% said that the arrangement is creative and can further develop democracy, it shows the investigation is open and transparent.

How about you? What's your opinion?

  • http://www.dontai.com/wp/ Don Tai

    With 20M migrant workers going home, out of work, there’s a high possibility of chaos in China. One small trigger, such as the suspicious death of this person, a subsequent outcry from netizens, followed by action by Chinese workers can easily become a big problem. Using netizens to relieve some excess social pressure is great public relations, and in the end will be harmless or useless. A citizen investigation committee has no power, has never worked with the police before, and headed by the propaganda department? You’d be joking if you think this group will get anything substantial done, or be able to find out what actually happened.

    More reasonable is that those on the netizen team will now be known to the police and will be watched in the future for further anti-social behaviour. This tactic is well used in China’s history.

  • dakka

    There’s no indication whatsoever with 20M workers out of work there’s a high possibility of chaos. If you’re going to make such a bold claim at least back it up with evidence.

  • http://www.dontai.com/wp/ Don Tai

    It’s not such a bold claim. 20M on China’s scale of 1.4B people is only 1.4% of China’s population. The CCP will clamp down so that there is almost NO possibility that anything can happen. You take away people’s ability to make a living like they’ve done for the last 20 years and you don’t expect any repercussions?

    Anyway, “20 million migrants lost jobs: Survey”
    By Tan Yingzi and Xin Dingding (China Daily)
    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-02/03/content_7440106.htm

    If it’s in China Daily, you know it’s true.

  • dakka

    I never disputed the 20M number, you still haven’t provided any evidence these migrants will cause ‘chaos’ in China.

  • http://www.dontai.com/wp/ Don Tai

    I am not a soothsayer, profess to have a crystal ball, read tea leaves nor practice black magic. One can only interpret significant current events, and couple this with Chinese history and one’s own experience and try to predict future events.

    With the unemployment of 20M migrant workers who are supporting their families back on the farm, there is significant negative trickle down effect. To tell these workers, who have worked in factories for the last 10-15 years with good wages, to simply go back to subsistence farming is not an option for them. To say these unemployed workers are experiencing social dissatisfaction and an unrealizable economic expectation should not be such a great leap of faith. Put yourself in their shoes.

    There is sufficient reason for concern, and the CCP acknowledges this. The CCP are already taking mitigating steps to try to prevent this. This should be evidence enough that this is a big issue in China. The only way to provide evidence of chaos is after the fact, when it is too late.

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/02/23/asia/23migrants.php

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  • dakka

    >”To tell these workers, who have worked in factories for the last 10-15 years with good wages, to simply go back to subsistence farming is not an option for them.”

    No one is telling them to do farming or anything as you’ve seen in the article you’ve linked.

    >”This should be evidence enough that this is a big issue in China. The only way to provide evidence of chaos is after the fact, when it is too late.”

    I’ve never denied this a big issue, you’re speaking for me again. If you’re familiar with Chinese history than you should know there’s plenty of evidence for looming chaos that happens before the fact not after. Many mass riots preceeded the downfall of powerful dynasties.

    >”To say these unemployed workers are experiencing social dissatisfaction and an unrealizable economic expectation should not be such a great leap of faith. Put yourself in their shoes.”

    Migrant worker also have a vested interest in social stability, as a stable environment also provides jobs. In addition, people’s goals are flexible ‘unrealizable expectation’ can mean they’ll tone down their expectations; like in the article when the man decides to take a pay cut rather than riot in the streets because he’s not getting paid more. It seems you’re trying to intrinsically link mass unemployment with chaos, however, instead of taking ‘a great leap of faith’ I suggest you examine all the angles before you predict future events.

  • Therese

    Internet popular terms are very powerful in China, earlier on we have Weng’an “push ups”, and it has discredited local government even though the final report came out and showed that local police hadn’t lie about the incident – the suspect was doing push ups on the bridge when the girl drowned herself in the river.

    What makes you so sure that the suspect doing push ups was not the lie?

    While the police may not have lied, they were certainly foolish to accept such an obvious lie from a suspect.

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