Shortly after China’s devastating May 12 earthquake, which killed nearly 70,000 people, I was intrigued by a terse Xinhua News Agency report. The Communist Party secretary of Unity Village, Liu Dingshuang, had been sacked within days of the quake for “dereliction of duty.” I figured there was more to this story, so in early June I tracked Liu down. (He’s not a relative.)
By Melinda Liu
Only a handful of residents in Unity had died. But so many buildings were damaged that, wandering through the destruction, I felt as if I’d stumbled into a post-apocalypse movie. One family welcomed me into their kitchen, which had gaping holes in the roof and a motorcycle parked near the stove. While chatting, villagers revealed that neighbor Zhang Mingzhi had blown the whistle on Liu by making a phone call to the party’s powerful Discipline and Inspection Commission, which probes official corruption. At Zhang’s equally ramshackle home, he said he became angry after hearing neighbors talk of being overcharged for mineral water, soft drinks and toothpaste at Liu’s family store. “If you’re a party cadre, you’re supposed to show leadership,” he said. “People saw Premier Wen Jiabao rush to Sichuan. He even shed tears in public. But here nobody saw Liu.”
When two investigators arrived in Unity on May 15, more than 20 villagers complained about Liu. Farmer Li Daogang told them Liu’s daughter had overcharged him by 20 percent for six bottles of Sprite. “I thought, ‘If things are like this everywhere in the quake zone, then this whole country is a mess’,” Li told me. That very evening, Liu was fired.
Read the rest: