attacking the police

Published on July 14, 2008 by husunzi

Update 2 (July 20): incident #5: Yesterday in Menglian, Yunnan, somewhere between 400 and "over 1,000" rubber farmers attacked police sent to arrest alleged instigators in a conflict with rubber plant managers, apparently about being forced by the government to sell their crop at 40% below its market value. The police shot dead 2 of the farmers, one of them "a student who knelt in front of [the police] begging for leniency for his father," according to this report, wounding 15 others and arresting about 20. Brandishing knives and steel pipes, the farmers managed to injure 41 officers and burn 8 police vehicles. Several high-ranking provincial officials have gone in to mediate the conflict, but as of this morning over 200 farmers were still protesting. (Google menglian for latest reports.)

Incidentally, over 1,500 petitioners were arrested in Beijing between July 14 and July 16, according to this report, with one committing suicide in protest, and one being sent to a labor camp on July 17, according to this.

Update (July 19): a fourth incident in the string of violent attacks on police and local governments in China was reported today. By connecting the dots provided by the scanty reports and a little bit of prior knowledge, I surmise that what happened is:

In Shangnan village on the outskirts of the (prosperous, export-processing) city of Huizhou, Guangdong, migrant workers from poor inland areas, who probably rent rooms from the villagers (most of the villagers probably living relatively comfortably from this rent & running local businesses, and so probably perceived by the migrants as something like class enemies), exploded in anger when they found that one of their fellow migrants, who had worked as a motorcycle-taxi driver, was dead, apparently murdered by a village "security guard," apparently because the driver refused to pay a 200 yuan "protection fee" to the "security guard."

The reports don't say what these security guards are, what they guard, or how they are in a position to charge protection fees from migrants (who I'm only assuming to be tenants in this village). SCMP says they were "government-hired," but it's clear that what the reporter means by "government" is the village authorities (who are formally independent from the government, but who often function as extensions of the nearest township party committee). What do they guard? Maybe they function as police for the village (since villages don't have formal police). Or maybe this village is more like a gated community for rich people, and the security guards are there to keep poor migrants from coming in to rob them?

Anyway, somewhere from "over 100" to several hundred migrants attacked the security guards and the village authorities' office, as well as the Yuanzhou township police station and nearby shops, brandishing knives and waterpipes, and turning over a police car. When the migrants tried to set fire the village authorities' office, about 300 villagers then attacked the migrants. The township police and riot police from Boluo county then came in to suppress the conflict. Netizens claim that three security guards were killed, but the state media hasn't reported any deaths on either side. 8 rioters were detained, among whom 7 were released, only the 25-year-old cousin of the deceased being kept under accusation of inciting to riot. Witnesses say that over 1,200 people were involved in all.

The best report I've seen is in today's SCMP, but you'll need to go through a subscribing library to access the online version. Google "huizhou police" for other reports, but mine's the best so far, i'm afraid. Let me know if you learn any more details or see any mistakes (the obvious way would be to search in Chinese, but i'll just wait for someone else to do that for me ;-)

Original post:

In the past two weeks there have been three incidents reported about Han Chinese attacks on the police: the riot in Weng'an, Guizhou; the individual attack on a police station in Shanghai; and now the riot in Kanmen, Zhejiang. (Considering the delay in reporting about the last incident, the lack of details about all three, Beijing's heightened efforts to control its image at this time, and precedence about this sort of incident over the past few years, it seems likely that other incidents of this kind have occurred recently.) Like the Tibetan riots in March, these incidents are all "criminal acts of violence," "terrorism of the highest order".

The best collection of info on Weng'an riot I've seen is Roland's, including photos & links to videos. Here is the first in the series of videos on Youtube:

Here are some of the photos:

w 1w 2w 3

Today the local state media announced that authorities have arrested 100 people & blamed the riot on gangs, still denying the claims that they had covered up the rape & murder of a girl, which had sparked the riot. According to AP, against this official claim that the riot was stimulated by gangs, "Locals have insisted that most of the rioting was done by middle school classmates of the dead girl, who had accused police of covering up her rape and murder by the son of a local official." However, according to local state media via Reuters, "Forensic experts have conducted three autopsies on the 16-year-old victim, Li Shufen, and have repeatedly ruled out the possibility of sexual assault or murder, saying she died by drowning." Instead (according to an earlier report), the provincial authorities are blaming local officials for creating a volatile atmosphere by their involvement with gangs as well as mishandling "public tensions over mining development, housingdemolitions and resident resettlement, Xinhua reported."

There has been little reporting on the Shanghai incident. The best report/ commentary I've seen is this. Today Xinhua released some more information about the suspect, but still nothing about his own explanation (they had briefly mentioned his explanation before but then removed it, saying that it was "inappropriate" to publish the suspect's point of view, according to Danwei).

I have seen no pictures or videos of the Kanmen incident either, although according to the reports hundreds of people were involved and it lasted for three days. I haven't found much searching in Chinese either (and shouldn't be spending much time on this now anyway - hopefully Roland, CDT, or someone will do that for me :) Apparently it's been covered up pretty well, considering it was only just reported in both Chinese & Western media four days after the riot began & a day after it was suppressed. The best report I've seen is this.

Incidentally, Tibetans & Hans are not the only people rioting lately. The past few weeks have also seen violent protests in India, Mongolia and Japan (in addition to the largely peaceful G8 protest, where 21,000 police outnumbered an terrorized an estimated 3,000 protesters), a prisoners' rebellion in Ireland, and a police mutiny in Nepal, not to mention the numerous food-related protests and riots around the world that preceded these for several months.

Such reports, "when viewed individually, may appear at first glance to be irrational actions, or simply isolated events. When viewed as a whole, they point to large areas of discontent and general patterns of activity..."

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