Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Retired Provincial Leader Targeted for Pleads

Mao Zhiyong, former party secretary of Hunan province, has not enjoyed much peace as he hoped since he chose to retreat to his rural home village and live a farmer’s life three years ago, after stepping down from office.

His after-retirement life was recently featured in The Beijing News, which apparently has been very busy.

The 77-year-old man has an impressive political resume, including 16 years as the party secretary, the top official of Chinese province, of his native Hunan province, another three years in Jiangxi province in the same post, and several years as the vice chairman of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Such a strong background makes people in the village and nearby believe that Mr. Mao is a powerful figure.

Local officials come to his home regularly, seeking advices on local issues. Using his resources and connections, he managed to have a Hong Kong businessman to take over a pig farm in the village, which created new jobs and businesses, and helped villagers to make more money.   

Not only better economy, he also attracted appealers from local and outside towns, who hoped Mr. Mao could help to claim their rights or seek justice. But the best Mr. Mao could do is no more than writing a letter to responsible officials, asking “please deal with [the case] in accordance with due policies.” On lucky days, the note could generate some feedbacks from Hunan and Jiangxi governments, where Mr. Mao once served as the chief.

To make sure that his life would not be disturbed too much, local police set up a guard booth near his home to provide 24-hour protection.

Mr. Mao’s return to rural village made big news three years ago, since it is not usual for such a high-ranking official to leave prosperous city and settle down in relatively backward country side. He wanted to go home, farming and raising chicken, because in the village, “the water is good, air is good and vegetable is good,” he said.

The attention he received in his home town, however, is predictable. High-ranking officials always trigger big excitement among lower officials as well as common folks in China, as in many other places around the world. Besides, they often possess substantial political influence even after they retire.

It’s also no wonder that appealers with all kinds of sad stories and broken rights would try to seek help from this retired former powerful, since they often fail to get much response from sitting officials.

----by Josie Liu

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