"NEW BREED OF ACTIVIST IS CHANGING CHINA"
Pretty cool and interesting article I read this weekend on how individuals are working to change China. Love it... love the power of the individual to initiate change for the better.
New breed of activist is changing China
By Yiyi Lu
International Herald Tribune
FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2006
LONDON On March 15, the China Consumer Journal named Hao Jinsong one of 10 "consumer rights-defending heroes" of 2005. Last year Hao successfully sued China's state railroad authorities for failing to provide him with proper receipts on trains, ending a long-held privilege under which the railroad ministry had avoided paying tax.
Hao represents a new breed of activists in China who believe their individual actions can bring about institutional change and who have ingenious strategies for exploring the existing space for citizen participation. In pushing for change, they carefully avoid the confrontational stance adopted by political dissidents. Instead, they pick their fights skillfully.
Since March 1 this year, rail travelers have been able to obtain formal receipts printed by the State Administration of Taxation when they purchase goods from onboard shops or buy meals in dining cars. This ends a long-standing practice whereby the Ministry of Railroads had been able to avoid strict taxation of its income, since Chinese tax bureaus depend on formal receipts to assess the profits of companies.
How much money will the ministry lose as a result of Hao's victory? Ministry statistics showed that the railroads carried more than 4.5 billion passengers from 2000 to May 2004. If each passenger spent 1 yuan (about 12 U.S. cents) during the journey, then the railroads made more than 4.5 billion yuan of taxable sales. This means a minimum of 225 million yuan of tax from 2000 to May 2004. Even though the railroads may have paid a lump- sum tax to the government coffers by special arrangements, tax officials admit that the railroads have traditionally been undertaxed. (full article)