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China

China: Who Can Stop The Tyranny Of The Privileged Class?

Essay: Recent cases of badly behaving sons of the rich and powerful has riled the Chinese public, raising real questions about whether a country’s ruling class is more powerful than the state itself.

Different worlds collide in China's largest cities
Different worlds collide in China's largest cities

BEIJING - "The father is his son's passport, and the son is his father's epitaph." This may sound like some ancient Chinese saying, but it is actually some very modern commentary buzzing among bloggers these days in China. Time and time again the children of celebrities aggressively flaunt their wealth and connections.

In a famous case last year, the son of the chief of the national police hit two people with his car, killing one of them. He drove off from the scene shouting his father's name. After a long delay, he is now serving six years in jail.

Two weeks ago in Beijing, Li Tianyi, the 15-year-old son of a famous opera singer who is also a member of Chinese Peoples' Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) was out for a drive in his BMW without a license plate. Perturbed by the car in front of him driving too slow, he forced it over to the side of the road and, with the assistance of his passenger, proceeded to beat up the other car's driver and his wife.

This time, under the pressure of public opinion, the Chinese authorities were forced to act very quickly and ruled that Li Tianyi will be placed in an institution for one year. Though the punishment has a legal basis, it is nonetheless the most severe ever handed down to a 15-year-old.

There is also a group of young men known as the "Four Sons of Beijing". One of them, Wang Shuo, was caught in a similar fit of pique while out driving in Beijing late last year, and slammed his car into the car of another one of the Four Sons, setting it on fire and threatening his rival Son. Who are Wang Shuo's parents? His father is another rich businessman and his step-mother, a famous actress.

Like in imperial times, the farce of the arrogance of the wealthy and the powerful is staged over and over again in China's major cities. These youngsters are afraid of nothing, and are riling the nerves of public opinion, which asks: Who is backing them? Is it really just their prominent families?

No matter how prominent a family, its influence should be limited enough so that it cannot cause the state apparatus to vacillate.

Under normal circumstances, law enforcement is a country's most powerful force. If law enforcement is impartial, the arrogance of the privileged will be restrained within legal limits. They won't challenge the law to bring punishment on themselves.

A disturbing self-confidence

However, neither Li Tianyi nor Wang Shuo showed any respect for the state. Rather, from these two young men's point of view, it simply doesn't exist. They answer only to the rule of jungle.

After Wang Shuo deliberately hit his rival's car, he ordered his servant to hide his gun and ammunition and to remove the surveillance video on the street before calmly surrendering himself to the police. His composure revealed an utter self-confidence that believes nobody can touch him, that however powerful you are, I'm even more powerful and able to settle any problem that might arise.

This is an extreme humiliation and affront to the state machine.

Chinese society must ask what is the real source of this confidence, this extraordinary strength that holds more sway than the state's system of justice. This extraordinary strength cannot come from a single family but from the joint force of a lot of these families. In other words, the force comes from the whole privileged class, an accomplice structure, a nomenclature.

This explains the anger of the people. Deep down the anger is in fact fear. Because if these youngsters reign above the powerful state machine, what else can stop their tyranny? Who can ever feel safe facing such people?

Read the original article in Chinese

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