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In China, Government Corruption Prompts Unexpected Criticism From Policemen

December 25, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
John Sparks of Independent Television News reports from Shandong province, south of Beijing, on complaints of government corruption that are coming from police officers, upset over the abuse of power wielded by superior officers, mirroring anger from the citizen protestors they are supposed to keep in check.
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TRANSCRIPT

GWEN IFILL:  And to China, where citizens are increasingly fed up with reports of corruption and lack of accountability. 

John Sparks of Independent Television News filed this report on an unlikely group of government critics in Shandong Province, south of Beijing. 

JOHN SPARKS:  It takes a long time to travel to Shandong Province.  But in many ways, this place is at the center of everything. 

We had come to hear a story about corruption in China, and the people who wanted to talk to us were policemen, members of one of the most powerful institutions in the land.  We were picked up by two officers and whisked away in their squad car. 

CHEN ZHUO, Police Officer (through translator):  We have been complaining about our police chief.  He is corrupt, but the government has done nothing to investigate him, has ignored the complaint of several hundred officers. 

JOHN SPARKS:  They say their boss has cheated them out of millions of pounds in a property deal, and they want to expose the whole affair. 

CHEN ZHUO (through translator):  We want to tell the world our story.  It will show you how bad corruption is in this country. 

JOHN SPARKS:  The officer want to do the interviews right away, and they’re taking to us a hiding spot where we can do them.  I think they’re worried that word will leak out that we’re here and they might be stopped.

It’s rare to hear police officers speak out like this.  But the public has become increasingly vocal and angry about corruption in the ruling Communist Party.  Thousands of protests are triggered every year by land grabs and other dodgy dealings.  And it is the police who are called on to re-impose order in such situations. 

When we got to the hiding spot, however, the officers told us they share many of the concerns held by protesters, the people they’re instructed silence. 

LIANG MIN ZHEN, Police Officer (through translator):  In the past, we tried to stop people from protesting, but now we’re in the same situation as them.  We don’t know what to do. 

JOHN SPARKS:  They told me they had contributed money to a low-cost housing scheme for policemen, but just before they moved in, the police chief jacked up the price. 

LIANG MIN ZHEN (through translator):  I have been working for the Communist Party my whole life, and now I don’t even have money for a flat.  My life savings have been stolen. 

JOHN SPARKS:  This is the apartment complex here in the town of Tan Cheng.  The police chief who organized the project has been transferred to another department, but his actions have not been investigated. 

O.K., the police, who have brought us here to see these apartments, four policemen, have just got a call.  They say another group of local police are on their way here to stop us from filming.  So we have got to move quickly. 

So Mr. Chen led us inside to have a look at one of the flats. 

When you look around here, how do you feel? 

CHEN ZHUO (through translator):  I feel so angry about this.  I have been everywhere to complain about it to every level of government, and nobody is listening. 

JOHN SPARKS:  Mr. Chen and his colleague investigation here six times to complain.  It’s called the petitions bureau in the capital, Beijing, the last avenue open to those with grievances against the state.

But on every single occasion, says Mr. Chen, policemen prevented them from registering their case.  It’s a sensitive location.  Security personnel didn’t like us filming here.  Back at the hiding spot, the officers from Shandong told us they wouldn’t give up. 

CAO YA LING, Police Officer (through translator):  We will keep trying to petition, but we know it probably won’t lead anywhere.  Still, what choice is there?  We have to try. 

JOHN SPARKS:  If you remain unconvinced about the depth of corruption in China, then take their word for it, the new batch of Communist Party leaders appointed last month. 

Party Secretary Xi Jinping warned corruption could spell the end of the country.  But doing something about it in places like Shandong Province will be tough.  This is a one-party state with little transparency or accountability.  The former police chief didn’t return our calls.  But the government could make a start by listening to their own policemen, because many here have had enough.