Tong Ming is a loans officer for China Industry & Commercial Bank in east China's Anhui Province. Last year the average annual income of the bank employees reached 20,000 yuan (US$2,582.8). But Tong used to make only 280 yuan (US$36.2) a month between 2001 and 2004. "When I first started working for the bank, I never expected that such a big enterprise could be so stingy with its employees, so we can imagine how the laid-off workers are treated."
As the gap between rich and poor continues to widen, Tong believes that the thing China needs most is a sense of social fairness.
On February 25, the Chinese-language newspaper, International Herald Leader, conducted an online survey in collaboration with sina.com.cn, one of China's most popular Internet portals. The survey was simple. It had only two questions.
The first question was: "What is China most lacking in 2007?" By February 27, 8,460 respondents had submitted their answers. Some 58.9 percent of them said: "social fairness and justice."
A further 22.5 percent voted for "improvement of laws," 9.3 percent for "good education," 5.3 percent for "a strong army," 2.3 percent for "others," and only 1.8 percent selected "a safe and stable domestic and world environment."
"Social fairness is closely related to legislation," said Lu Hanlong, president of the Social Development Institute of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
Li Junfeng, consulting lawyer for the Shanghai Entrepreneurs' Association, agrees, adding that China is not only in need of improvements to its legal system, but also basic fairness and justice. "The law is the last safeguard mechanism to ensure fairness and justice. Rights without judicial protection are not rights."
The second question the survey posed was: "What do Chinese need the most today?"
A hefty 50.8 percent of respondents voted for "moral sense, uprightness and courage," 34.5 percent for "humanity and culture," 6.9 percent for "interpersonal attention and interaction," 6 percent for “nationalist passion," and 1.9 percent picked "others."
Lu Hanlong noted that the Chinese people have not grasped the notion of civic consciousness. However, he added that the fact that more respondents highlighted "moral sense, uprightness and courage" and "social fairness and justice" as critical must-haves today shows that more people have become aware of civil rights.
This might be so, but Xia Xuelan, a professor of sociology with Peking University, pointed out that the masses still do not have enough courage to make appeals on behalf of the people. "I get a lot of e-mails asking for help, but I don't intervene because I have neither the authority nor power. I urge these people to write to government agencies instead or to take their pleas to the courts or procuratorates."
(China.org.cn by Wang Zhiyong, March 10, 2007)