Lack of transparency adds to public-government mistrust

By Wang Wenwen Source:Global Times Published: 2015-5-11 0:23:01

A deadly shooting in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province a week ago has raised the question of information transparency and police law enforcement once again. A man was shot dead by a police officer after the victim reportedly assaulted security officials and passengers at a local railway station.

Sympathetic voices were heard in support of the dead man and many questioned if the officer had used excessive force. Some even attributed the case to authorities' disrespect of people's lives and, as a result, the public's distrust toward the police.

So far, authorities haven't released convincing video footage to justify the officer's behavior. The victim was reportedly a petitioner who had tried to make his appeal to a higher government department but was forbidden to get on the train. His death touched upon the public's nerves as the case also seems to involve the relationship between authorities and petitioners, and while the way authorities deal with this relationship remains somewhat opaque, the public often tends to show sympathy to the latter.

Local governments do have their own problems. Often, the government's approach to handling disputes is to make a big problem into a small one. Sometimes, they would rather resort to "ambiguity" instead of sticking to laws or regulations.

But as China's Internet flourishes, citizen journalism enables netizens to dig out the truth online and challenge authorities. They demand authorities handle each case in a fair and justified manner. Authorities' past "ambiguous" attitude no longer helps ease the public's concerns, but will only add mystery to cases that were not that "sensitive" to handle in the past.

In 2010, a police officer in Guizhou Province shot two villagers to death and the local public security bureau attributed it to the victims' assault. It caused a public uproar due to people's lack of trust toward local authorities' rhetoric and people called for reinvestigations into the case. It was three years later that the court sentenced the officer to eight years in prison for intentional homicide.

From a positive point of view, the public's harsh scrutiny serves as a driving force for local governments to practice the rule of law. But it would be too much to hype any confrontation between authorities and the public. It is expected that authorities can give a serious answer to the latest shooting case. It also requires the public's patience in a social environment where the rule of law is relentlessly promoted.

Posted in: Observer

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