China National Radio (CNR) has recently published an article, translated by Joel Martinsen at Danwei, that exposes another tactic that corrupt county officials will use to stifle dissent threatening their interests in coal mining operations: going after the employment status of petitioners’ family members.
The article states:
"Two teachers from Hengshan County in Yulin, Shaanxi Province were recently forced to suspend classes so that they could return home and prevent their relatives from petitioning to higher levels of government over flagrant private mining operations. If they could not prevent their relatives' actions, they would not be permitted to return to work.
CNR reporters discovered that government officials and public servants in Hengshan are secretly investors in mining operations, and mines that the Shaanxi provincial government ordered to be shut down are still conducting illegal extraction.
Li Yanrong, one of the teachers ordered to stop classes, told reporters that she taught at Suzhuangze School, which was situated in a good location outside of metropolitan Yulin, so she was afraid of being transferred to a more remote location. Around June 28, the school leadership called her up to tell her that someone from the village had submitted a petition, and she was to return home to conduct ideological work. If it was successful, she could come back to work. If not, then the next semester she would be transferred away from Suzhuangze."
This type of intimidation of family members is, unfortunately, nothing new. CLB’s research report “Blood and Bone: the Price of Coal in China”− a report about the post-accident management system in China’s coal country − detailed many similar high-pressure tactics used to deter bereaved family members from seeking adequate compensation for their family members’ death in notoriously dangerous coal mines. These tactics include: pressuring bereaved families into signing compensation agreements by forcing family members to hold quick funerals, lowering the compensation amount for every day the family delayed in signing the compensation agreement, offering to cut through “red tape” if families agree to a one-time lump sum, lying to families about their legal rights, blatantly refusing to give the legal minimum, mobilizing “household pacification” teams (composed of local government officials) to intimidate and do “ideological work” on the families so that they will agree to sign watered-down agreements, controlling the local media, and intimidating family members not to accept professional legal help.
Although the safety record at China’s coal mines has improved marginally in recent years, the CNR report makes clear that government collusion with coal mine operators will still cause environmental damage and cause unnecessary social problems. Hopefully more media reports like this will be able to put some light on an otherwise dark and untransparent area.