A child molestation scandal grips Shanghai

July 09, 2019 08:46
No matter how wealthy one has become, there won’t be a real sense of security without press freedom and  proper checks and balances. Photo: AFP

Wang Zhenhua, the chairman of real estate group Future Land Development (01030.HK), was detained in Shanghai on suspicion of child molestation.

According to reports, a middleman took two girls, aged 9 and 12, to a five-star hotel near Future Land's headquarters on June 29. If the allegation is true, the fact that he chose an upscale hotel close to his office suggests someone in authority could be offering him some sort of “protection”.

Wang was detained by Shanghai police on July 1. The local state-owned media Xinmin Evening News didn’t report it until 3 p.m. on July 3 on its Weibo account.

All other online media outlets then reproduced the news. However, all the reports were deleted around 4 to 5 p.m. on that day because the Shanghai publicity department reportedly intervened and ordered all media outlets to delete the report.

But things changed quickly. People’s Daily and CCTV, China’s top two state mouthpieces, reported the news later that day. That has encouraged other media outlets to continue their coverage of Wang’s case.

Thanks to the Central Leading Group for Inspection Work, which has been in Shanghai since June, for following up on the case. Otherwise, the scandal could have been covered up.

Now, if Shanghai had sufficient press freedom and check and balance on local officials, that would never happen.

Shanghai may be a rich city, but the incident shows that without proper checks and balances and freedom of the press, no matter how wealthy one is, there won’t be a real sense of security. That's because there is always a chance that someone more powerful can take away all you have or inflict damage on you.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has achieved a lot since he assumed power in 2012. Authorities have been cracking down on corruption. The top leadership has taken a tough stance on environmental protection.

Xi has also ordered the Central Leading Group for Inspection Work to break up unholy alliances between local officials and businessmen.

The Chinese have become more prosperous four decades after the nation’s reform and opening-up. But apart from better living standards, what most people want now is perhaps security.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 8

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist