Henan epitomizes China," so writes Ma Shuo, a native of Henan,
in his Who Did People from Henan Offend published by Hainan
Publishing House in 2002. "China is the most populous country in
the world, Henan is the most populous province in China; China is
the largest agricultural country, Henan the largest agricultural
province; China is the biggest developing country, Henan the
biggest developing province."
According to a China Daily report on February 10, the
nation's first civil lawsuit on regional discrimination reached
settlement. Through mediation by a local court in the High-tech
District of Zhengzhou, capital of Henan, the police substation in
Longgang District, Shenzhen, has apologized for hanging reportedly
discriminatory banners outside a produce market in March 2005. The
banners called for the smashing of Henan racketeering gangs. The
two plaintiffs, Ren Chengyu and Li Dongzhao, accepted the apology
and voluntarily dropped the other charges.
However, and regretfully, the court didn't give a clear verdict
on the dispute that could serve as a reference for possible similar
cases in the future. Moreover, because the lawsuit didn't draw the
attention of the supreme legislative and judicial departments, its
social significance has been largely ignored, according to a
Nanfang Weekend commentary on February 16.
"I believe the judicial officials involved sympathized with us
because they are all from Henan," Ren told the Guangzhou-based
paper. "But I must admit that they had to handle the case under
The suit was filed last April. The plaintiffs charged that the
banners had infringed upon the rights of the Henan people, damaged
their reputation and caused mental trauma. Zheng Shuiquan,
president of the local court, has since not agreed to any media
Last December, the Henan People's Radio Station began
broadcasting a program called "My Hometown: A Land of Beauty." Wang
Quanshu, vice secretary of the provincial Party committee, hopes
that the program will help boost Henan people's confidence and more
important, remodel the image of Henan, which is closely linked to
the province's economic growth.
Zhang Xinbin, a researcher with the Henan Provincial Academy of
Social Sciences, pointed out that the prejudice against the Henan
people is a long-standing one. Historically, Henan was the
political center of many feudal dynasties. As a result, official
rank slowly became the only criterion for judging one's social
wealth. For that reason, Henan people are often described as
craving fame and personal gain, and will stop at nothing to climb
the official ladder, Zhang said.
No one knows for sure when the Henan people were first made a
target for attack. It's said that for some time, passengers on
trains were routinely warned to be more vigilant about keeping
their personal belongings safe in Henan. From the mid-90s, that
feeling of regional discrimination toward Henan seemed to spread
across the nation.
Wu Jingqin who sells vegetables at Beijing's Huixin Food Market
has fallen victim to that prejudice merely because of her Henan
accent. "I'm honest with all customers, so I cannot understand why
I should be ridiculed because of the way I speak," she
"Regional discrimination can be found anywhere in the world, and
beyond all doubt it is extremely unfair," Prof. Miao Changhong of
Henan University said.
"Henan is a poor province, but not the poorest," Ma writes in
his bestseller. "The discrimination against people from Henan might
seem to be a regional or cultural one, but fundamentally it's an
economic one…. To some extent, economic discrimination is the most
primitive and also the deepest…."
For that very reason, "There's no need at all for us to care
what other people think. Instead, we should focus our attention on
developing production and bringing about economic prosperity," Li
Chengyu, the province's governor, said in an interview with
Notwithstanding a regional development imbalance in Henan, its
gross domestic product (GDP) growth exceeded 1 trillion yuan last
year, making it one of China's top five provinces.
According to Lin Da, a well-known Chinese writer living in the
US, in terms of anti-discrimination China still has a long way to
go. Usually discrimination comes of itself, but to counter it, both
self-education and rational introspection of the country's people
are necessary, Lin said.
For Ren and Li who pursued the banner issue, things didn't quite
work out the way they expected. First of all, they wanted to send a
clear message to society that regional discrimination is an
unlawful practice. Second, they hoped to bring about the
development of an "anti-discrimination" law.
"A good law can help settle a problem that's possibly beyond
solving by any other means," Ren said.
(China.org.cn by Shao Da, February 27, 2006)