Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Weng’an Incident: Harbinger of a Mass Movement?

“You cannot impose the dictatorship of the people onto the people themselves.” (Guizhou Provincial Party Secretary Shi Zongyuan)

“To regain their trust, it is necessary to make them feel that the Government is there to serve the people.” (Rose Luqiu, a 2007 Nieman Fellow, is executive news editor of Phoenix Satellite Television 4/7/08)

On June 28, 2008 an incident occurred in Weng’an township of Weng’an County, Guizhou Province. Weng’an is two to three hours by car north-east of the Provincial capital, Guiyang. Like most of the Province, it is a hilly region and not very prosperous.

The incident probably directly involved only a few hundred people, but 10,000, 30,000 or even 100,000 people – depending on which source you choose - were there to witness it and to support it.

During the incident, the Public Security Bureau (PSB) headquarters were torched and several dozen vehicles, mainly police cars, were overturned and burned.

One version of the event was taken from the online Tianya chatroom and quickly posted on the Cultural Revolution Research website under the heading “The Weng’an County Incident in Guizhou Province is a mass resistance to despotic rule and the harbinger of a political movement”.

Another version, that of official reaction in Guiyang, condemned “the criminal elements whose smashing, vandalizing, looting and arson have seriously damaged the images of Weng’an County and Guizhou Province, the excellent social and economic development of Weng’an County and disrupted the unity and harmony of the County and the Province” (Xinhua Newsagency).

In the several weeks since the incident occurred, four leading officials in Weng’an have been dismissed from their posts, and the Guizhou Provincial Party Secretary Shi Zongyuan has identified various unaddressed social grievances as being behind the violence.

However, the immediate cause was the death of 16 year old female student Li Shufen (left).

Accounts differ on how she died, on who may or may not have been involved, and on the aftermath including the reported beating to death by police of her uncle.

The body of Li Shufen was retrieved from the Simen River in the early hours of June 22. How she came to be there has been the subject of much conjecture.

According to some sources, she “…was murdered because she did not let another female student copy her work during an exam. This female student was the niece of the County Party secretary Wang Qin. She colluded with two gangsters who raped and killed her.” (Tianya chatroom comment reposted on CR Research website).

Other sources claim that it was the other female student who was the murderer: “…the victim was murdered by another female student named Wang Jiao” (cited in Yet Another Version of the Weng’an Mass Incident, 30/6/08, DWnews)

Chinese whispers resulted in a variation on this theme: “She died…(because) during the exams, she refused to let three male students copy her answers. In revenge the three male students raped her and then pushed her into the Simen River where she drowned” (same source as above).

No-one contests the fact that Li Shufen was at the Dayan Bridge over the Simen River. No-one contests the fact that she was with Wang Jiao and two boys, Liu Yanchao and Li’s boyfriend Chen Guangquan.

(From left, Liu Yanchao, Chen Guangquan and Wang Jiao)

The contest is over whether she was raped and drowned, or committed suicide by jumping off the bridge; whether the friends with her were not charged because there was no crime, or because they had “connections”; and whether the body was properly autopsied or not.

According to the three friends, the evening started with the two boys deciding to have a meal at a friend’s room. Liu went off on a motor bike to pick up Wang Jiao and Li Shufen. According to Liu, they drank rice wine during the meal, Li Shufen drank one cup, Wang Jiao half a cup while the boys had two cups each. At about 10pm, they all decided to go home. Wang Jiao says that it was Li Shufen’s suggestion that they walk, and that they walk along the river. When they reached the bridge, Li Shufen suggested that they stay there and “play around”.

Li Shufen sat on the railing of the bridge, facing the water. Her boyfriend Chen Guangquan was tired and lay down on the ground by the riverside. Wang Jiao was about twenty metres away and starting to worry about getting home late. Liu approached Li Shufen, standing about two metres to her left.

Liu says that he and Li Shufen chatted, and that they discussed things that were upsetting her. She told him that her parents favoured males over females; her elder brother (with whom she shared a flat) bullied her frequently; and that she was always in trouble with her parents, so she was better off dead than alive. She told him that she wanted to jump into the river, hearing which Liu Yanchao grabbed her and said “You want to jump in the river? Have you gone mad?” He said she calmed down after that.

Liu then spoke with Li’s boyfriend, Chen Guangquan, who said he was tired and going home. Chen walked off. A couple of minutes later, at about ten minutes past midnight and while he was doing push-ups, Liu said that he heard Li call out “I’m going”, followed by a splash as her body hit the water. Liu immediately jumped in to rescue her.

(In another bizarre twist, “push-ups” or “fuwocheng” has become one of the hottest words on the Chinese internet. Bloggers whose comments on Weng’an were censored took to taking pictures of themselves doing naked push-ups in all sorts of places. Apparently some saw the push-up as a lie by Liu to explain why his body was going up and down just before Li went over the bridge. “Rape gesture is similar as push-up exercise, up and down. Frankly speaking, I do not think it is a coincidence…” said one comment on the English-language China Daily website. Tackily, and typical of the crass mentality of money-makers everywhere, a real estate company placed a large billboard on Central Road, Nanjing, saying “House prices are not diving, they’re just doing push-ups”!)

Wang Jiao, at the foot of the bridge, called back Chen Guangquan and they helped Liu, who was starting to get into difficulties in the two metre deep water, out of the river. They could not find Li Shufen.

Wang Jiao called 110, the police number, and then called Li Shufen’s elder brother Li Shuyong. The police called the fire brigade. Li Shuyong called on his uncle, Li Xiuzhong, and others to hurry to the bridge.

Accounts differ as to who retrieved the body of Li Shufen, and when. According to one Weng’an resident, on CReaders.net, the fire brigade retrieved the body half an hour later. Another report, carried by Reuters newsagency, said that “Repeated calls to the Weng’an County Public Security Bureau were not answered or did not connect, and calls to the county government were not answered after midnight on Saturday,” implying that no-one in an official capacity took part in the search and retrieval. The official Guizhou version supplied by the PSB was that “Weng’an county public security bureau received a call at 00:27 on June 22, 2008 that someone had jumped into the river. The command centre ordered the Yongyang town police station to send militia police officers to the scene and also notified the fire department. The militia police arrived at the scene and began to search for the body. Since it was dark, it was around 3am that they finally fetched the body of the dead girl.” The DWnews source quoted above says, “That night, people tried to locate her body but they were unsuccessful, the next day, the police retrieved the body and arrested the three murderers…When the body was brought out of the river, there were many spectators.” Yet another account quotes local residents as saying “The body was retrieved by the uncle of Li Shufen in the middle of the night, and the fire department showed up after daybreak on the next morning. But the broadcasts are saying that the fire department recovered the body.” And the uncle? He says he went to the scene to “help recover the body” after which he was called on to go to the office of the PSB for an interview.

Unless they were lying, the accounts by the three friends rule out the possibility of the girl having been raped. Three subsequent autopsies, the last one carried out in the presence of the girl’s father, aunt and two others have confirmed that she was a virgin at her death, that her hymen was intact and that there were no traces of semen on her body.

However, confusion reigned amongst the masses following the retrieval of the girl’s body from the river. Stories quickly spread that there were marks on her neck indicating that she had been strangled, that internal organs had been removed during the forensic examination so that the story of her having been drowned could be fabricated, that she had been drugged, that there was no sign of mud in her body as there should have been had she drowned and, of course, that she had been raped.

Although the three friends were taken to the PSB for interrogation, they were released within 24 hours, triggering rumours that they were related to Party and government officials. Reuters picked up on the rumours, quoting accounts that “a youth alleged to have attacked the girl may have been the son of a senior county official or police officer.” Another report circulating on various sites (Ming Pao, Qbar) said “The son of a Weng’an county deputy mayor and another youth raped and killed a 15-year old female middle school student named Li Sufen and then tossed her body into the Simen River afterwards. The police detained the suspects for five hours and released them without charge.” On DWnews, a Weng’an resident reported that “The parents of the murderer called a certain department head at the Guizhou provincial level, and this person then issued an order. The next day, the Weng’an county police released the three murderers.” And on the Boxun website, the following appeared: “Based on information provided by local citizens, the Li family found out the two young men were related to the leaders of the county public security bureau, county party committee and provincial party leaders. That was why they were released after being detained only eight hours.”

According to official sources in Guizhou, none of the three had connections with high officials.
Liu and Chen are both from poor farming families of the Yanmen brigade, Naxiang village, Caotang town of Weng’an County and were working together at a county paper factory. Their parents are villagers and have been subsequently interviewed by reporters from Guiyang. Wang Jiao’s parents are villagers of the Jiajiabo brigade, Jiajiabo village, Tianwen town of Weng’an county.

Adding to the rumours that were fuelling mass indignation at supposed official protection afforded a gang of rapists and murderers was a story that police had beaten Li Shufen’s uncle to death. One of the first internet reports, that reposted on the Cultural Revolution Research website, proclaimed that Li’s uncle had been beaten in the PSB office, and then again out on the street, and that “after sustaining serious injuries, he died today (June 28) at 4pm.” Another report stated “The relatives of the girl went to complain to the police. Instead of getting justice, the relatives were assaulted. An uncle of the girl was beaten unconscious and eventually died.” The Boxun report states: “Li Shufen’s uncle…was assaulted by six plainclothes security guards and subsequently died from the injuries.” Falungong’s Epoch Times plagiarises this report (whilst claiming to have reporters on the scene interviewing people!!!), changing “security guards” to “policemen”, under the heading “Girl’s Murder Triggers Riot in Guizhou Province” (Epoch Times, July 10-16, 2008 Australian edition).

The uncle was later interviewed by reporters from Guiyang and Hong Kong in a hospital where he was recovering from a beating (left). He denied that he was dead! He did admit to an altercation with a police officer during an interview at the police station, but said that both he and the police officer were impatient and rude to each other, and that the fracas started when the officer tried to push him out of the office. Later, he was accompanied by education department officials (he is a teacher at the school attended by his niece) to sort the matter out, and on leaving the police station and walking a short way down the street, was attacked by six unidentified persons. They beat him up, as a result of which he was hospitalised. The identity of the attackers has still not been established although counter rumours say they were friends of Liu and Chen.

In a bizarre twist to the turn that events were taking, and one that ensured that speculation would be channelled into sympathy for the alleged rape and murder victim, the family of Li Shufen, on recovering her body from the police after the first examination of her body, hired a refrigerated coffin and placed the corpse in a tent by the bridge (below).

Next to the tent they placed big character posters appealing for justice from the authorities. A Weng’an resident on CReaders.net reported that those who wished to view her body were charged 5RMB apiece to do so, and that with donations from sympathisers, almost 20,000RMB was collected. The family demanded a second examination of the body and a DNA analysis. This was done on June 25 by a medical examiner from the southern Guizhou PSB. The result confirmed death by drowning, and that there had been no sexual violation. Official Guizhou sources state that although the family accepted the outcome at first, they refused to bury their daughter until Wang Jiao, Liu Yanchao and Chen Guangquan agreed to pay 500,000RMB in restitution. The same sources claim that the family took part in mediation the following day and promised to sign an agreement settling the case on June 28.

However, on June 28 the family helped organise a march on the offices of the PSB out of which developed the attack on the buildings and the burning of the cars. For the moment, the details of this can be left to one side. An article from Southern Weekend which gives a good background to how social grievances blamed by Party Secretary Shi Zongyuan for the incident led to a small group of aggrieved persons becoming a crowd of many thousands is appended to the end of this post.

The mass disturbance in Guizhou had reverberations in Beijing. Again, accounts differ. One report on Ming Pao has it that “Chinese President Hu Jintao has questioned why the disturbance took place. According to informed sources, Hu Jintao personally asked about the incident and wanted to know, “Why did such a small criminal case trigger such a large-scale mass incident?” In his directive, Hu Jintao demanded that the local government should calm down the demonstrators and protect social stability; at the same time, the directive asked that the local Guizhou media should actively report the affair and lead public opinion, without blocking information from going outside.”

However, on Boxun, Hu Jintao not only did not respond with concern for the situation – he actually created it, and it was a massacre! “The news is that there were many deaths…According to known internal information and published reports, this massacre was personally ordered by Hu Jintao and supervised by Zhou Yongkong (Political Bureau Standing Committee member) and others. The murders were carried out by Guizhou officials and the locally based soldiers.”

Following the incident, on July 1, the family finally agreed to a burial after a third autopsy, the results of which have been reported above.

So can the Weng’an incident be seen as the harbinger of a mass political movement?

In his book The Battle for China’s Past, Prof Gao Mobo finds it unlikely that incidents of this type will lead to any type of concerted, organised resistance movement by farmers and workers.

I wasn’t there, and I’ve read too much Chinese and “Chinese” crime fiction (Peter May, Elliot Pattison, David Rotenberg, Qiu Xiaolong etc) to want to try and make a judgment from a distance on an event that could well serve as the basis for a crime fiction novel (with political overtones).

However, it is clear from the decision to sack four officials (Wang Qin, Party secretary of Weng’an county; Wang Haiping, head of the county government; Luo Laiping, commissar of the county’s PSB; and Shen Guirong, chief of the county PSB) that the more senior leadership accepts the validity of justifiable and widespread mass discontent relating to arbitrary decision-making, reliance on force or threat of force to resolve contradictions among the people, failure to resolve resettlement issues, disputes over mining and disregard for the activities of youth gangs and other crime.

This is the social context in one county of a Province described by one contributor, a self-described “native of Guizhou”, as “China’s Third World”, a province of 35 million people of whom “several million roam begging for food and clothing”, where up to “19 million suffer from fluorosis and 100,000 from arsenic poisoning”. The author challenges readers “Can we really turn a blind eye to the suffering…and remain indifferent to the plight of our compatriots…Without civic awareness, awareness of rights and a sense of responsibility, the Guizhou Plateau will remain a hell on earth for the poor and a paradise for the rich and the officials.”

The tragic death of Li Shufen may not be the harbinger of a new political movement by the masses, but the neglect of the basic interests of the poor, of the people whose misery brought a people’s revolution to success in 1949, will certainly lead to more and more incidents of mass frustration and protest, and these will become more frequent and larger in scale as long as the neglect is allowed to fester.


(Southern Weekend)

July 10, 2008.
[in translation]

It took only a short six days from the day of the abnormal death of a junior high school female student to the disturbance that rocked Weng'an county city and gained the attenton of the entire nation.

On the day when Guizhou province Weng'an County Number Three Middle School Form 2 student Li Shufen died (June 22), the medical examiner made a preliminary determination and informed the family she "had drowned by suicide" and the three principals present at the scene were released.

On the next day, her father Li Xiuhua raised doubts and asked for a full autopsy. He submitted an application for a crime investigation.

On the fourth day after the death of Li Shufen, rumors began to float around the city. Her uncle Li Xiuzhong clashed with the police at the county public security bureau and was then assaulted by unidentified persons outside. The case is still unsolved at this time. Her father filed an emergency appeal to ask the government to "solve the case and punish the evil doers in order to calm public discontent."

Seven days after the death of Li Shufen, several dozen people marched with banners and then engaged in vandalism, looting and arson at the Weng'an county government and party buildings as well as the public security bureau building. More than 10,000 people were at the scene.
The family of Li Shufen is reluctant to discuss her death now. The young Li Shufen could not imagine that her death would lead Guizhou Provincial Party Secretary Shi Zongyuan to say directly: "Weng'an is unsafe; the masses feel unsafe; the people won't tell the truth."

In six days, how did the escalating clashes and associated rumors around the death of a female student cause the city to explode? What kind of unsafe city was Weng'an during those six days?
There was no prior hint for the incident. On the day when Li Shufen died, her family did not have many questions. On the morning of the same day, the three principals present at the scene were questioned by the police and released because there was no suspicion of wrongdoing.
When the family of Li went to the police station to talk to the three principals, the latter were no longer there. At the same time, the three began to appear in the rumors: "The principal murderer is the niece of the county party secretary, and the other two men are relatives of the police station chief. The deceased had been raped and killed."

"The relatives were submerged in sorrow and they did not considered the key issues about what had occurred before her drowning death. They did not demand an autopsy or an examination of her lower body part," Li Xiuhua described the initial situation.

In order to preserve her body, Li Shufen's godfather Xie Qingfa rented a refrigerated coffin at a daily rate of 120 RMB. The refrigerated coffin was placed at the end of the Dayan bridge where the accident took place. This concrete bridge is less than 1.5 meters wide. The balustrades on both sides are about 1 meter high. The Simen river which is several dozen meters wide flows underneath the bridge. There are weeds floating in the river, which is as deep as two meters. There is no open space by the riverbank. The refrigerated coffin was placed inside a temporarily erected tent.

Some spectators swore that they heard screeching cries for help in the middle of the night. Someone said that they saw condoms and blood stains on the river bank. A grassy patch by the river was said to be the spot where the crime was committed.

The death of the girl Li Shufen became interwined with government officials, merciliess policemen and injustice across this small county city.

The family of Li Shufen thought that there was an injustice at first. On June 23, they asked for another medical examination. At the time, the maternal grandmother Cheng Shujen witnessed the process and swore that "there was no water in the stomach and there were pills in her throat."

The increasingly distorted rumors began to spread through the streets of Weng'an. "16-year-old Li Shufen was murdered because she refused to let a female classmate copy her answers during an exam; her throat had many wound marks -- she was obviously strangled to death!; the son of the Weng'an county deputy mayor with another young man raped a Weng'an County Number Three Middle School female student, killed her and tossed her body into the Simen river ..."
This small space by the river became a stage. From morning to evening, people came continuously. People brought their own discontent to gawk at this girl who died of unknown causes.

They opened their wallets generously because they wanted to see justice rendered for her. Many citizens told the reporters that they heard that someone gave as much as 3,000 RMB. "That person told her relatives to take the money to file a lawsuit. We will support you to the end. If you don't want to go to court, you return the money to me." This is as if they had personally seen this occurred.

The donors included common folks. "There were peasants who don't earn much from the vegetables that they sell. But they donated their ten RMB of the day." According to an eyewitness, the donations totalled several tens of thousands of yuan.

On June 25, a new incident occurred. Li Shufen's uncle Li Xiuzhong clashed with militia policeman Zhang Ming. Afterwards, the official statement was that "the two had clashed but Li was not injured." But Li Xiuhua wrote in this petition letter that his brother Li Xiuzhong "had been beaten with truncheons and kicked before being interrogated by the militia policeman."
Li Xiuzhong was then summoned by the county education department to go down to the police station for questioning. Afterwards, he left and when he got to the Weng'an insurance company, he was assaulted violently by a group of unidentified men in plain clothes.

In his "emergency appeal," Li Xiuhua (interviewed by media, left) wrote: "Li Xiuzhong was assaulted ... he was bleeding, unconscious and in critical condition." He also claimed that "my beloved daughter Li Shufen was murdered but the public security bureau refused to establish a case for investigation ..."

The aforementioned episode showed up in the street rumors as: "The family of the deceased went down to the public security bureau but the police beat the uncle severely. Then they ordered gangsters to beat him further. His uncle died at 4pm after medical treatment failed."

The rumors about the injustices rolled bigger and bigger, but these were clearly ignored by the government. The Simen river flowed on silently and nobody noticed what was happening. But these small dark changes were brewing silently and gathering strength.

On the morning of June 28, the Weng'an County Public Security Buerau delivered the <Notice to urge a speedy disposition of the body> to the family of Li Shufen. The notice stated that Li Shufen "had jumped into river on her own accord and drowned." "The cause of death has been established, so there is no need to preserve her body." The Li family was enjoined to send the body of Li Shufen back home for burial before 14:00, June 28 2008." "If not, the public security bureau will handle this in accordance with the law."

This aroused the ire of the spectators. At around 3pm on that day, two middle school students raising a banner saying "Justice for the people" in front and several dozen followers marched on behalf of Li Shufen.

None of these marchers were family relatives of Li Shufen.

The group started from the Dayan bridge and chanted slogans. Then they got on the Old Ring City Road.

At the Seven Stars village alongside the Old Ring City Road, there resided almost 1,000 people who had been displaced by the hydroelectricity project. After the 6.28 (June 28) incident occurred, Guizhou provincial party secretary Shi Zongyuan said that his incident appeared to have been triggered by the controvesial death of a middle school female student, but the deep structural reason is that there had been frequent infringements of citizen rights over the relocation of migrants, demolition of buildings and mining rights disputes.

The "relocated migrants" that Shi Zongyuan was referring to included the 1,000 or so people at Seven Stars village. These people were displaced by the construction of the largest hydroelectricity project in Guizhou province. More than 4,000 were displaced for the dam, including more than 3,000 who had previously been farmers. As early as 2004, the villagers in Laiyuan district had clashed with government workers over the compensation and relocation plans.

The villagers recalled that the relocation began in late 2002. The entire village was to be relocated. At the time, the compensation was 19,000 RMB per person, but the villagers thought that the amount was too low and they suspected the relocation department was keeping some of the money for themselves.

In terms of land compensation, the villagers also thought that the amount paid for fruit trees was also too low. According to the national standard, each mu of garden land should be given more than 16,000 RMB. But these villagers were only offered 100 RMB per tree, which worked out to be only 7,000 RMB per mu. Meanwhile, a neighboring village received 1,000 RMB per tree.
In December 2004, then county mayor Wang Qin visited the village along with members of the provincial-, prefecture- and county-level relocation bureaus. "We asked them why the compensation was so low," said a villager. "We were not communicating. They could not explain so we were not going to let them go."

The angry villagers took away the cars and blocked the roads. Other people in the neighboring areas also came over when they heard the news. Together with the more than 1,000 outsiders, there were 2,000 to 3,000 migrants in the village.

The government officials including the county mayor were forced to stay in the village for three days and three nights. The two sides could not reach an understanding. On December 16, the villagers found that a large number of armed policemen had arrived.

Once the clash began, many villagers were injured, including women and children.

"We called 120 but they did not care. We brought our injured people to the town clinic but they were ordered not to receive injured people. In the end, we had buy our own medicine to treat our injured," said this villager.

Finally, the government officials managed to leave with the escort of the armed policemen.
After more than half a year later, the government agreed to provide a total of 5,000 RMB in medical compensation to 34 injured persons. But the issue of relocation compensation remained unresolved.

More than two years later in late March 2007, the villagers received notices from the town government to complete their relocation by March 31. "If you fail to relocate before then, you will bear all the consequences."

On April 6, 2007, the Weng'an county government leaders led a team of more than 100 government workers and demolished the buildings in the village, including setting some on fire.
Not only this, but these officials saw all the fruit trees under the waterline, destroyed all the grown crop and sprayed poison on the seedlings. At the time, the pears were ripe but they were gone before being picked. "It rained heavily that night. So people could only hovel under some tent clothes." That was how the villagers spent a sorrowful night. Today, that village is a pile of weed-filled deserted rubble.

As of today, 54 of the more than 200 migrant families have stayed in the village. They have not received any compensation from the government. They managed to build shacks above the water level. They have no water or electricity. They survive on the farmland and fruit trees that are above the water line. When they try to get construction work at the town government, they are told that they are not needed. "We only want a transparent policy in which we receive our compensation. We want to live peacefully above the water line." They are waiting without much hope for the problems to be resolved.

The more than 1,000 villagers who have relocated to the Seven Stars village have received their compensation which they think is too low. So they are still pursuing the matter.

On June 28, when the demonstrators went by the Seven Stars village, some of the migrants who were still pursuing the compensation issue joined in.

After going down Old Ring City Road, the marchers led by middle school students turned into Northeast Road. The Weng'an Number Three Middle School is located on Northeast Road. The deceased girl Li Shufen had attended this school.

"The school is unsafe. Many fellow students have joined gangs and they show off their membership," said a male student who did not want to disclose his name.

He said that there were almost daily fights in front of the Number 3 Middle School each day after classes. There were group melees or individual face-offs involving machetes, daggers, poles and so on. The brawlers included students as well as local "hooligans" from various gangs in the city. According to two teachers at Number Three Middle School, "Students assaulting teachers is nothing new."

Another student said that it is not just male students who join gangs. In Weng'an, if you want to concentrate on studying and not be bullied, you must join a gang and get 'protection' and this applies to girls as well as boys.

The gangs are not just active among students, for that was just the lowest ring in the organizations. According to someone who had invested in mining, at the tip of the pyramid are the gangsters in the mining industry, who sometimes collude with government officials.
"It is tough to operate a mine if you refuse to accept the terms of the gangs." According to the informant, the terms include payment of protection money; distrubution/sales rights of mined products; ownership of shares in the mines. Some gangs operate mines themselves.
Between the mines and the gangs, the villagers live awkwardly.

In Yuhua town where Li Shufen came from, there are many phosphorous mines. The reporter saw that the river water was greyish-white murky. The villagers said that since 2002, the mines have contaminated the water source which meant that people and animals could not drink from it and the crops withered. When the villagers complained to the government and the mines, they were ignored.

In addition, the mines created soil erosion but the villagers received little or nothing in compensation for losing their land.

At the Tianba brigade of Yanganhe village, Yuhua town, the villagers found that the water level was sinking due to the mining. In 2007, a well dried up completely so that there was no water for man and animals.

According to a villager who declined to disclose his name, the Tianba villagers went to the mine to complain. The mine representative said that the falling water level was a natural phenomenon. The villagers also went to the complain to the county and town governments to no avail. Reluctantly, the villagers tried to cut off the electricity as well as blockade the mine shaft. Clashes occurred between the two sdies.

This villager said that the Weng'an government organized a work group to come down on March 15. The villagers said "as long as the water problem is unresolved, we won't let you go." The work group was detained in the village for three days and three nights before being released.

On April 29 last year, the county government asked the village representatives to attend a meeting "to resolve the problems." A group of 14 villagers including the village mayor and the village party secretary went to the county government office building to meet in the conference room. According to a villager who attended the meeting, the county police showed up in the middle of the meeting and took away 11 of the representatives.

"When the villagers heard that their representatives had been arrested, the whole brigade went to the county city. At the police station, a police line was set up to prevent the villagers from seeing their representatives. Amidst the chaos, a physical melee occurred. 22 people from the brigade, including the representatives, were arrested." The eyewitness said that some of the villagers were accused of assaulting the government office. Ultimately, seven of the village representatives were found guilty of "assembling and disturbing public order," with prison sentences between two to six years in length.

The godfather of the deceased school girl Li Shufen, Xie Qingfa, is a member of the Tianba brigade in Yuhua town and he participated in the aforementioned incident.

So when the demonstrators went by on June 28, the mining district residents who had suffered at the hands of the government workers and the gangs were quickly ignited and many joined the marchers. According to an eyewitness, many shop owners by the road shuttered their shops and joined the demonstration.

On July 3, Guizhou party secretary Shi Zongyuan said that in the process of handling conflicts and mass incidents, certain cadres were violent and simplistic, frequently invoking the police force ... some cadres were lazy and derelict and they pushed the police onto the front line whenever an incident occurred. This ired the people greatly. The result was that there was not only tension between the government and the people, but also between the police and the people.

Guizhou provincial deputy party secretary Wang Fuyu said that some cadres are corrupt and collude with the gangs by acting as their "sentries" and "protection umbrellas."

After the 6.28 incident, the Guizhou police quickly established a crime squad and arrested 249 persons belonging to six different gangs. The largest gang was "the Yushan gang which was established in 1998 and has more than 50 lieutenants." In one day, the gangs that had existed safely in Weng'an were wiped out.

On July 3, Weng'an county public security bureau director was recommended for dismissal; on July 4, the Weng'an county party secretary Wang Qin and county mayor Wang Haiping were dismissed from their posts.

When the demonstrators left North East Road to turn into Wenfeng Middle Road, the crowd had swelled from the several dozens in the beginning to one thousand.

The lesson to be drawn after the incident was expressed on the afternoon of July 2 at a mobilization meeting for the anti-gang campaign in southern Guizhou province. The prefecture party secretary Wu Ting described the situation to the party and government leaders from the twelve counties. The incident occurred on June 22 and the Weng'an government paid attention to it by establishing a work group. They were still discussing the issues on the morning of July 3. "So why did everything change at 3pm?"

Wu Ting said that he could not see how two or three hundred people holding a banner could swell up to four to five thousand by the time that they reached the county government buildings. During the process, how come nobody in the government knew or mediated?

On Wenfeng road, the shops are mostly "sales agents" and "recreational massage parlors." According to an informed source, the "sales agents" are pawn shops and loan sharks with gangster backgrounds and hidden government backers.

The official presentation of Weng'an county is that this was a historical revolutionary county, a top 100 green county in the nation for its forestry, a model county for protecting the old and the young and a red flag county for public safety in the province.

But a taxi driver said that Weng'an is an unsafe city. "I am definitely home by 11 o'clock at night. That is when the gangs come out." A parent named Feng Zhongming cried to the reporter that his 9-year-old son died from poisoning last year and the case is unsolved.

At past 10pm on June 26, the Changsha Water Pump Shop on Wenfeng Road was robbed by two masked men. According to the owner, "Two men armed with guns just walked into the shop." They pointed the guns at the owner's head and ordered him to bring out his money. The robbers rolled down the steel gate, tied up the family of three, took two mobile phones and 1,000 RMB in cash and they left. "I called 110, and they showed up more than 40 minutes later." The owner thought that police were too slow in responding.

On one evening on the year before last, a middle school student was killed as soon as he stepped out of the school gate. Last month, a middle school girl suddenly went "missing." Later on, her body was found in a corn field. She had been strangled. That case is still unsolved.

"I go and pick up my child after school each day or else I feel very insecure," said a parent named Shi. Although the child is already in high school, the parent is uneasy because of the general lack of safety. There is a local doggerel: "The good people are in disarray, the bad people have formed gangs; if security is no good, there cannot be any prosperity."

According to published information, the police noted that there were four explosions on September 12, 19, 22 and 26, 2007 at the Weng'an county Audit Department dormitory, Jinlong Garden, the North Gate Well and the Pedestrian Mall. Those cases are unsolved at this time.
Guizhou provincial deputy party secretary Wang Fuyu believes that an underlying reason for the 6.28 incident was the bad public safety situation in Weng'an. Although the police have gone after the gangs, the latter have not been eradicated. Robberies and fights continued to occur. There were 600 to 800 crimes committed last year, of which about 50% were solved. When crimes go unsolved and pile up, people feel unsafe.

When the cars were being torched outside the government building, the police could not stop the masses. But the owner of a small shop told the masses: "This car is mine. I need it. Please don't burn it." The vandals did not torch that car.

Southern Guizhou party secretary Wu Ting sighed: "Why do the vandals refuse to listen to us but they would listen to a citizen? Why is our relationship with the masses so tense?"
After the 6.28 incident, the broadcasts continued to urge the participants to surrender themselves. On the streets, the armed police and the regular police patrolled. In front of the county party and government offices, there were armed police guards 24 hours a day. A taxi driver said: "These are the safest times in Weng'an."

The most interesting conversation took place between provincial party secretary Shi Zongyuan and the workers at a blind-person massage place. Shi asked whether the shop owner felt safe because they were next to the public security bureau building. When the owner hestitated to answer, Shi apologized: "Our party and government have failed in our work. Weng'an is unsafe, the people feel unsafe and there are more and more bad people."

When a worker at the shop refused to state his name, Shi Zongyuan once against admonished himself: "Weng'an is unsafe. The people dare not tell the truth. That is our responsibility ... the government is unable to stop the bad people and the masses are suffering. Weng'an is unsafe. The good people cannot defeat the bad people." He apologized repeatedly to the people of Weng'an.

"The incident began with students demonstrators. Then thousands of people gathered to watch. But the party, government and public security bureau had no information beforehand. They lack information, they were not mentally prepared and they had no contingency plan. When the incident took place, they had no response." On the meeting of July 3, Wang Fuyu said, "In condlusion, there were too many unresolved matters, there was too much bitterness and things were irreversible."

"The 6.28 incident appeared to be an accident, but it was inevitable. Sooner or later, this was going to happen!" said Shi Zongyuan.

At 3:30pm on June 28, citizen Hu saw the demonstrators coming down on Wenfeng Road. The people were chanting slogans and heading towards the county party and government buildings. Hu joined the group.

When the demonstrators reached the county and government offices, more than 10,000 people had shown up. There were students, migrants, shop owners, farmers, service workers, massage girls and even public servants, relatives of police officers ... they were men, women, young, old -- all the groups of Weng'an county city were represented here.

Hu said that the students went into the county party and government buildings and went from the first floor to the fifth floor without finding any relevant government officials. It was a Saturday.

"If someone in charge had come out and communicated with the people -- even if it was just someone saying a few words with a loudspeaker -- what happened later on could not have occurred," said Hu.

Since the Li Shufen affair was handled by the public security bureau, the demonstrators proceeded to the county public security bureau building.

Hu saw that the police had set up a police line in front of the building. They were going to let two students to enter the building "They seized the banner and the students seized it back. There was a clash and the students jostled with the police," said Hu. "When people saw the students being beaten, more people charged past the police line to help."

At that moment, the fully armed anti-riot police appeared and pointed their truncheons at the crowd.

Guizhou provincial party secretary Shi Zongyuan said afterwards: "You cannot just push the police onto the front line on any flimsy reason. You cannot impose the dictatorship of the people onto the people themselves. Otherwise, wouldn't it be weird!" Shi Zongyuan requested the cadre leaders to determine the cadres who were derelict in their duties during the incident.
The crowd was in an uproar. When they saw the students being assaulted, they tossed the water bottles in their hands, the flower pots in front of the building and everything else at the public security bureau building.

"It was over," said Hu. At that moment, he realized that the crowd has lost its head and the situation has spun out of control.

By that time, the triggering fuse was no longer important. The important thing was that the pented-up volcano had suddenly just found what had been a very small crack and Weng'an exploded.

1 comment:

nickglais said...

The Cultural Revolution Research Website is down - maybe closed down ?

Great article on the Weng'an Incident.