An Investigative Reporter's Year-End Review

(Tianya Club)  By Fu Jianfeng (傅剑锋).  January 16, 2006.

[in translation]

On this same day last year, I did not sit by the quietly flowing Zhujiang to contemplate what happened during the past year.  I did not look at the blossoming Chinese redbuds.  My distant thoughts were with the fluttering white snowflakes of the northern country.

On the same day last year, shortly after New Year in 2005, I was involved in a terrifying investigation which I nevertheless felt that I must conduct.

This investigation was connected to a criminal group that specialized in cutting people's arms and legs off (they were active in Shenzhen at the time under the name "Arm-chopping Gang).  At the time, an arrested member of the "Arm-chopping Gang" -- a feeble-looking 18-year-old suspect confessed to the police that more than 100 young people from his Wenjiang village in Guangxi province were committing these types of robbery in the Pearl River Delta region.  At the time, I realized that behind the "cruel," "juvenile" and "rural" aspects of these robber gangs, the issue must be more than just moral degeneration and there had to be deeper sociological reasons.

At this impoverished village, I saw the reality of their existence.  Their village was extremely poor.  Most villagers do not get to eat meat more than a few times per year.  The actual average annual per capita income is less than 400 yuan.  Of the several dozen arrested gang members, most of them did not graduate from elementary school due to poverty.  Some of them do not even know how to write their own names.  The more shocking thing is that almost no one had a criminal record back in their home villages.

So why did they change so rapidly once they reached the cities?  Their achieved level of education cannot get them good jobs.  They had to do intensive labor for more than 12 hours a day to obtain meager wages, and this will never let them realize their urban dreams.  On the contrary, these young criminals all tried to work in the city, but they suffered prejudice and discrimination everywhere.  So someone made a bad start by giving up "sweat wages" and making "blood wages" instead, and this became an extremely tempting choice for them.  This is a social tragedy that occurred due to the rupture between the eastern cities and the western rural villages in social development, as the human moral system becomes transformed and broken following the disjuncture between urban and rural developments.  This transformation severely affected the tranquility of the cities.  Another way to look at it is that when a social system becomes more fully connected, the impact of wealth inequality with reach into the rural villages just as it will reach into the cities.

I did not imagine that this judgment would be confirmed again half a year later in an astonishing way.  During the investigation of the "Arm-chopping Gang," I made the acquaintance of a worker named Ah Xing from Wenjiang Village.  He was a good friend and elementary school classmate of most of the members of the "Arm-chopping Gang."  For the past few years, he had been working in the city under great hardship, and he used his feeble moral bottom line to resist the repeated temptations to commit crime.  At the end of that interview, he told me if urban life forces him into desperate straits, he may enter the criminal path in the end.  Afterwards, I maintained my friendship with him and I hoped that he would not stray.  But his prediction was right.  In July of 2005, he killed the factory manager after a labor wage dispute.  During this escape journey, he asked me to accompany him when he turned himself in to the police.

Ah Xing tried hard to be good, but he fell into criminality as if by destiny.  This caused me to contemplate more deeply about their destinies.  They are different from their forebears who only wanted to earn money in order to return home to continue their rural lives.  They are a new generation of migrant laborers who want to stay in the cities.  But the urban-rural chasm creates prejudices and systematic gaps that make their urban dreams seemed quite hopeless.  Ah Xing's crime was an extreme manifestation of the group anxiety.  It is not an abstract question of justice about how the economic development in China can let the major contributors (namely, the workers and their descendants) enjoy the rewards of reform, but this is a concrete question of social safety.

This problem is obviously showing up in those cities with large numbers of outsiders.  In August, Guangzhou began a major crackdown in order to improve the safety situation.  Prior to that, the criminals even dared to commit robberies in front of the Guangzhou police station.  Afterwards, my investigation revealed that even though the "Speeding Car Gang," the "Arm-Chopping Gang," "Head-banging Gang," "Backpack Gang" were severely set back, it is impossible to reverse the overall situation about crimes being committed by outsiders in the near term.  Guangdong has to bear not only the burden of the social transformation and increased regional disparities within the province itself, but also the same things in southwestern China and south-central China as well.  Therefore, improving the living environment of outsiders is not just a question for a certain city, but it requires the improvement of social policies all across China as well as the harmonious co-development of all the economic areas.  This type of pain is widespread and dangerous.  According to the "2005 Blue-Cover Book of Society," Chinese Academy of Social Sciences professor Liu Jianguo warned: "That is not the only problem (meaning the public security problem in Chinese cities).  We are worried that the (rural) groups will hate the cities."  The so-called "harmonious society" is not just a simple political slogan in this era, because it concerns the national fate and public well-being.

The resources and ability of this group to change their fates are usually lacking.  In October, I was in Lanzhou investigating the death of the hair-salon girl Gou Li and that was an example.  This impoverished rural female loved her husband above all.  But in order to repay a huge debt quickly, she gave up her 300 yuan per month job in a city factory and became a "Miss" at a hair salon.  Less than half a month after she became a "Miss," she was detained.  In order to procure a quick release, her husband spent more than 10,000 yuan.  Instead of reducing their old debt, the new debts piled up.  Four months later, she was released from the detention center and she resorted to her old profession again.  A few days later, she was strangled to death by a sexually perverted customer in a rental room on September 3.  Among her possessions, the police found two diaries written in the detention center, in which every page was about her thoughts for her husband.  Along with the diaries was one bag full of more then 1,000 folded paper hearts, with words such as "Kiss you" or "Love you" on every heart.

Sociologist Pan Suiming told me that in his study of sex workers, more than half of the subjects were wives or mothers who were forced into the sex trade due to economic issues.

This type of solemn fact has made more and more people realize that one cannot just simply strike at the people.  Rather, there must be more systematic arrangements that are designed to benefit the poor and the government must provide urgently needed public goods to protect the livelihood and education of poor people.

The lack of public goods is not a problem that can be solved in the near term.  In certain western areas that lack public financial resources, the conditions are shocking.  After finishing the investigation of the Gou Li incident, I found out during an interview with Kansu province Weiyuan county deputy secretary Li Yingxin that 70% of the substitute teachers in this county received between 40 to 80 yuan in wages per month.  In this county, 62-year-old substitute teacher Wang Zhengming has sent more 70 students to university, but he has never received more than 40 yuan in wages per month in his whole life.  Shaanxi Lantian substitute teacher Li Xiaofeng taught alone for 13 years in a mountain village elementary school.  There are 600,000 more such substitute teachers who make the same meager wages in the central and western impoverished villages, and they are the ones who are holding up half the sky for basic education in the poor rural villages.  From another perspective, this type of education for the poor that is built and sustained by a civic sense of morality is obviously perilous, and it is also extremely unfair to the poor children.

The fates of these 600,000 substitute teachers were created by the imbalance in the long-term investments in urban and rural free education.  The good news is that this problem has received great attention from the local and central governments.  There have been much news coming out at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, and it can be seen that the central and local governments have or will be improving the policies in ways that will benefit rural education.

During this investigation, the person who moved me most was not just those substitute teachers who taught in hardship circumstances or those grassroots officials who had the courage to break official rules to plea on behalf of the people -- it was the Weiyuan county deputy secretary Li Yingxin.

When Li Yingxin saw that worrisome situation in education in the west, he wrote a tearful 10,000-word investigative report to the Kansu provincial committee and the national Ministry of Education, and he also called for social concern through the media.  This type of action breaks the usual rules of officialdom and caused certain people to be unhappy.  But Li Yingxin told me that if this can really get the government senior officials to solve the problem of substitute teachers, he would not mind losing his job.  Fortunately, Kansu provincial party secretary Su Rong also issued written orders that the problem of substitute teachers must be solved.

Li Yingxin therefore gained the respect of the masses there.  At around New Year, I received a touching piece of news.  Several Kansu province Kangu county mountain area substitute teachers walked through snow and ice for several hundred kilometers to Weiyuan County to express their gratitude to Li Yingxin, who was the "spokesperson for substitute teachers" in their hearts.

This type of conscience and moral self-awareness touched me deeply.  The first person who told me about the difficulties of the substitute teachers in the west was 70-something-year-old retired Guangzhou teacher Zheng Qianyi.  At the time when she told me this situation , she was in tears.  In later exchanges, I found that she had spent several tens of thousands of yuan of her own to print classical textbooks for the impoverished village schools in the west.  One time, she was giving a lecture in the west and she almost died when her diabetes condition acted up.  She still has the west on her mind as she lies on her sick bed today.  Among the many donors to education in the west, the most memorable one was the Beijing female Doctor of Philosophy who gave the 400 yuan in publication fees of her doctoral dissertation to the substitute teachers.

This kind of civilian conscience was also fully and exceptionally evident in my observations in Shenzhen.

In September 2005, I interviewed Leng Feng, a solitary anti-fraud fighter against the numerous fraudster companies in Shenzhen.  Although he lives in a rental house of fewer than 6 square meters of area in Shenzhen, he was full of responsibility for the public interest and the wisdom of a detective.  He has saved fraud victims on numerous occasions, and he has offered numerous tips to help the Shenzhen police solve cases.  He has exposed frauds on CCTV investigative news programs.  I see in him an exuberant public spirit and the will to live that is growing in civic society.

This precious thing also appeared in the person of another Shenzhen citizen Li Hongguang in a ground-breaking fashion.  She spent her own money for newspaper advertisements to ask the representatives at the two congresses to pay attention to a dozen or so public interest issues and investigations, and the Shenzhen government actually paid attention.  The ground-breaking characterization also applies directly to the Shenzhen Lawyers Association.  During the past two years, they had been trying democratic experiments on their own, and this became a long-term observation subject for me.  They directly elected the Association president from among the lawyers.  Afterwards, they follow a democratic process to monitor the president, including a recall process.  When they found many flaws in the system during the process, they improved the rules of the game in 2005 based upon the "constitutional spirit."  Around New Year, a newly directly elected president Li Cun (formerly, the director of a law office) followed the principle against conflict of interest and suspended his lawyer license and practice that could have brought him several million of yuan in income per year in order to become an honest and corruption-free president.  They claim that they are exploring a sociological example of "democratic politics."

I have encountered innumerable people like these.  Across the land that we live in, there are innumerable people who may be known or work in silence.  Just as Mr. Lu Xun said, "From our ancient times, there are people who immerse themselves and work hard, there are people who stake all and work hard, there are people who appeal on behalf of the People, these are people who sacrifice themselves for a cause ..."  It is precisely these people who let us feel the warmth of life and history and who let us believe that justice and conscience have not been lost.  Just when we despair at the relentless fates of people in this era, we see people's paramount strength and the light and hope that our times shall be improved.


  冷暖人生里的时代背影
  一个调查记者的年度观察
  傅剑锋

  去年今日,我没有坐在静静流淌的珠江边沉思一年的过往,也没有看着这南国的紫荆盛放,而遥想起北国的白雪飘飞。
  去年今日,也就是2005年刚过元旦不久,我正在介入一个令人恐惧又自认为必须得去做的调查。

  这个调查与一个以砍手砍脚等残忍手法抢劫的犯罪群体相关(当时活跃在深圳广州一带,名曰砍手党)。其时被抓获的砍手党成员一个看起来像孱弱少年的18岁嫌疑人向警方供认,他所在的广西温江村约有近百年轻人以这类抢劫在珠三角谋生。我当时意识到,这种抢劫群体的残忍化、年轻化与村庄化背后,绝不是简单的道德沦丧,而必有更为深刻的社会学原因。

  在这个贫困山村,我看到了他们生存的真相。他们的村庄极度贫困,不少村民一年吃不上几趟肉,实际人均货币年收入不足400元,已经被抓获得几十个砍手党成员,几乎都因为贫困小学没毕业,有的人连自已的名字也不会写。更让人震惊的是,他们在家乡几乎都没有犯罪记录。

  那为什么他们在到了城市后急剧蜕变?他们接受的教育水平无法使他们找到好工作,靠每天12小时以上的高强度劳动获取的微薄工资无法实现他们的城市梦想。相反,这些一开始也做过打工者的犯罪青年在城市受到是无处不在的歧视与不公平待遇。在有人带了坏头后,放弃汗酬选择血酬成了对他们极有诱惑力的选择。这是发生在东部城市与西部农村的社会发展日益断裂之下的社会悲剧,这些人的人格体系道德体系正是随着城乡发展的断裂而产生分裂与变异的。而这种变异,又如此深刻地伤害到一个城市的安宁。也就是说,在一个社会系统越来越唇齿相依的时代里,当贫富差距伤害到农村时,这种伤害也一定会延伸到城市。
  
  没有想到,这种判断会在半年后以极为离奇的方式被再次证实。在砍手党调查中认识的温江村打工者阿星,他与大多数砍手党成员是小学同学和好友,他数年来在城市中艰辛打工,以脆弱的道德底纸抵抗住了一次次的犯罪诱惑。在那一次采访之末,他曾告诉我,如果城市生活把他逼到绝境,他可能最终会扛不住,一样走上犯罪路。此后,我一直和他保持友谊,希望他能坚持走正途。但一语成谶,他在半年后的七月份,因劳资冲突杀死了工厂主管,并在逃亡路途上要求我陪他去自首。

  阿星从努力向善到宿命般地落入犯罪深渊,使我更为深广地思考起他们的命运。他们是不同于父辈那样只要赚到钱就想回家过乡村生活的打工者,他们是欲在城市安身立命的新生代民工。但城乡藩篱造成的歧视与制度鸿沟却使他们在实现城市梦想方面前途渺茫,阿星犯罪其实是这个群体焦虑症候的一个极端表现。如何让这些对中国经济发展作出了主要贡献的打工者极其后代合理地分享改革成果,不只是抽象的公正问题,还是具体的社会安全问题。
  
  这个问题在一些有庞大外来人口的城市已经明显地体现出来。就在此后的八月份,广州为遏制治安乱象,掀起了声势浩大的严打行动。严打前,歹徒甚至公然白天在广州市公安局门口抢劫。此后,我在调查中发现,虽然飞车党、砍手党、拍头党、背包党等犯罪团伙遭到了严厉打击,但这个主要以外来人口为犯罪主体的局面并不可能在短期内改变。广东在很大程度上承受了不只是广东本身,还有中国西南、中国中南数个大省带来的转型之痛和区域差距拉大之痛。因此,改善城市外来人员的生存状态,也不是某个城市的事,而需要整个中国社会政策的系统改善,以及区域经济之间的和谐共进。这种疼痛是广泛而危险的,中国社科院教授刘建国在去年初的《2005年社会蓝皮书》时就警告:不只是这些问题(指中国城市治安问题),我们担心的是(农村)集体情绪的仇恨城市。所谓和谐社会,对这样一个时代,早已不是简单的政治口号,实已关乎国家命脉和公众福址。
  
  这个群体在改善自身命运方面的资源与能力也常常是极为匮乏的。十月份我在兰州调查的发廊女苟丽之死就是这样的一个例子。这个贫困的乡村女子无比地爱她的丈夫,但为了更快的还一笔巨债,她最终放弃了城里工厂月薪300元的工作,做起了发廊里的小姐。但做小姐不到一个月,她却被收容。为了使她早日出来,她的丈夫化了一万多元,结果老债未还新债高筑。为了还债,四个月后她刚从收容所出来又开始重操旧业。但没做几天,她在9月3日被变态嫖客勒杀于出租屋。警察在她的遗物里发现了她在收容收里写的两本日记,篇篇日记几乎都不离对丈夫一往情深的思念。与日记在一起的,还有满满一袋纸折的心,每颗心上写着吻你或者爱你的字样,共有一千多颗。

  而社会学家潘绥铭告诉我,这样为生计所迫而从事色情业的妻子或母亲居然占了他所调查的性工作者的一半左右。

  这样沉重的事实已经使越来越多的人意识到,不能简单地打击她们,而要更多地设计惠及穷人的制度安排,政府应在保障穷人们的生活与教育方面提供更多更急需的公共品。唯有此,才能正真消弭类似的悲剧。
  
  公共品不足方面的矛盾在短期内显然还难以解决,在西部公共财政贫乏的一些地区,这种状况甚至是令人震惊的。在调查完苟丽事件后,我在对甘肃渭源县委副书记李迎新的采访中得知,这个县有70%的代课教师月工资只有40元到80元。该县62岁的代课教师王政明,一辈子教出了七十几名大学生从未拿过超出每月四十元的工资。陕西蓝田的代课教师李小峰13年坚持在只有他一个老师的山村小学里教书。这样拿着微薄工资却付着艰辛代价的代课教师,在中西部等贫困农村还有 60万,他们撑起了贫困农村基础教育的半边天。但另一方面,这种靠透支民间道德而维持下来的贫困教育也必然是危险的,对农村孩子也是极端不公平的。

  这60万代课教师的命运,正是城乡义务教育长期的投入不均衡所造成的。令人振奋的是,这一问题已经引起从地方政府到中央政府的高度关注,岁末年初连续不断的消息中,可以看到中央与地方已经或者正将作出有利于农村教育的政策改善。
  在这个调查中,使我感动的不但有那些艰辛执著的代课教师,还有敢于打破官场潜规则为民请命的基层官员渭源县委副书记李迎新。
  
  当李迎新看到西部教育这一令人忧心的现状后,即含泪写下万言调查,上书甘肃省委与国家教育部,并在媒体上呼吁社会关注。这种做法有违官场惯例,一度使一些人很不高兴,但李迎新告诉我,只要真能引起高层政府对代课教师问题的解决,哪怕他丢官也是值了。幸好甘肃省委书记苏容也在后来批示要求解决代课教师问题。

  李迎新也因此被那里的民众所敬重。在岁末年初之际,我得知了一个让人感慨的消息,数名甘肃省甘谷县山区的代课教师,跋涉数百公里冰雪路途赶到渭源县,向李迎新、这位他们心目中的代课教师代言人表达谢意。

  这样的良知与道德自觉常令我感触良深。最早向我反映西部代课教师这一困境的是七十多岁的广州退休教师郑千一,当时她哭着说完了这一情况。在此后的交往中,我得知她为了支援西部基础教育,自费数万元为贫困的西部村校印古典读本。有一次在西部讲学时因为糖尿病发作差点命丧他乡,现在病重卧榻还念念不忘西部。在对西部教育的大量捐助者中,令人难忘的还有一位北京女博士,她把博士论文获得的四百元稿费全部捐给了代课教师。
  
  这样的民间良知在我定点观察的深圳同样表现丰富而特出。

  2005年九月我在深圳调查了一个与深圳数量众多的骗子公司孤身斗争的反诈骗人士冷锋,他虽然蜗居在深圳城中村一间不足六平方米的出租屋中,却热怀着对公共利益的责任感和侦探式的智慧。他不但多次营救受骗人士,而且还多次提供线索协助深圳警方破、在央视新闻调查等栏目大揭经济骗局。我在这里看到了孕育在民间社会里的昂扬的公民意识与生命意志。

  这种宝贵的东西还以一种富有探索性的方式体现了另一位深圳市民李红光身上。她自费万元在报纸上做广告,希望两会代表关注她提出的十多个事关公共利益的议题与调查,后来还真得到了深圳政府的重视。这种探索性更为直接地作用于深圳律师协会,他们因两年来致力于自觉的民主实验,而成了我一个长年的观察样本。他们从律师中直选律师协会会长,直选后又通过民主程序启动对会长的监督甚至罢免程序。在运作过程发现诸多制度缺陷时,他们又设法在2005年以所谓宪政精神为内核改善游戏规则。在岁末年初之际,换届直选新上任的会长李淳(原系某律师事务所主任),按利益回避规则主动停掉了能给他带来数百万年薪的律师执照和律师业务,而着意遵守规则做一个清廉的会长。他们自称是在探索民主政治的一个社会学样本。

  这样的人,我亲身接触到的已经不胜枚举,而在我们广袤的生活中已为人知或只是默默苦干的,更是不可胜数。这真如鲁迅先生所说的我们从古以来,就有埋头苦干的人,有拚命硬干的人,有为民请命的人,有舍身求法的人......正是这些人,使我们感到生命与历史的热度,使我们相信正义、良知从来不曾失守,使我们在谓叹人被时代所裹挟的无奈命运时,还看到人的无上力量以及时代必定被改善的光亮与希望。