More rioting in China, this time not aimed at Japan

Reuters reported early this morning that rioting occured on Sunday in Huankantou village, Dongyang city, in Zhejiang province(just south of Shanghai).

More than 50 police were injured on Sunday and rushed to hospital, with five listed in critical condition, a doctor told Reuters. About four villagers were injured.

Police had tried to disperse about 200 elderly women who had kept a 24-hour vigil for two weeks at sheds and at a roadblock outside an industrial park housing about 13 chemical factories, villagers and local officials said by telephone.

Two of the women were killed, two villagers said. “They were run over by police cars,” one said.

A source with knowledge of the incident who requested anonymity said the two had died during an attempt to arrest them. He did not elaborate, but a statement from the city government denied that anyone had been run over and killed.

Thousands of villagers clashed with police in riot gear, overturned about 10 police cars and hurled rocks at officers holed up in a local high school, residents and officials said.

“Villagers knocked down the wall of the school and charged in,” one villager surnamed Wang said.

Residents also smashed the windows of about 50 buses which carried some 3,000 police, paramilitary police and security guards to the scene at about 3 a.m. on Sunday to try to disperse protesters, they said.

Some of their specific grievances included,

“We hate the people in command of the police. We are waiting for the government to respond,” a second villager said.

A third said: “We demand the provincial government send a team to investigate this case.”

Villagers told stories of withered trees and grass near the factories, inedible vegetables and undrinkable water.

“Give me back my land. Save my children and grandchildren,” read a banner hanging outside the industrial park.

Although this rioting occured on the same day as anti-Japanese riots in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and other cities, it was triggerd by long standing grievances that the villagers had been peacefully protesting for some time. Perhaps the Chinese authorities decided that the dramatic anti-Japan protests in the city would provide sufficient cover for them to remove the demonstrating townsfolk?

Hong Kong based Asia Times reports that Beijing has imposed a domestic media blackout on the Japan protests, and speculates that:

Chinese leaders may fear, too, that continuous anti-Japan demonstrations could trigger protests about broader social grievances, speculated a university professor who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Just two months ago, Chinese communist leaders refused to let people come out and publicly commemorate the late Zhao Ziyang [the purged party leader who sympathized with the 1989 Tiananmen student demonstrators]. They know that wound is still fresh and could easily open,” the professor said. ‘. “They don’t want protests to turn against them.”

This is far from the first time that large scale rural protests have taken place in China. The Reuters article states that

More than 3 million people staged about 58,000 protests nationwide in 2003, according to the latest available official figures. The number of demonstrations jumped 15 percent from the previous year

This is also not the first time that such a protest has turned deadly and been reported in foreign media. Remember last year’s riots in Henan province in central China.

As many as 5,000 people fought with sticks and burned several houses over the weekend in violence between Hui Muslims and members of the Han ethnic majority, according to Langchenggang residents interviewed by phone.

The fighting killed seven people and injured 42, according to residents and the government. Langchenggang residents could not confirm a report by The New York Times of 148 deaths, including 18 police officers.

Authorities imposed martial law on the area in Zhongmou County near the city of Zhengzhou, residents said.

In a way, the simultaneous occurrance of these two very different protests speaks for the divide between the rich urban and poor rural areas in China. The city dwellers may have the luxury to protest atrocities that happened decades ago, but the bulk of the population in China seems to be more concerned with atrocities that their own government is committing against them every day.

6 thoughts on “More rioting in China, this time not aimed at Japan”

  1. From the 04/13/05 _South China Morning Post_:

    Villagers say when the police – numbering 3,000, they say – arrived, they
    also brought cattle prods. Wang Xiaomei , 70, said: “Those police. They were
    worse than the Japanese”.

  2. I enjoyed the SCMP for the few days that I was in Hong Kong. It sucks that you can’t read ANY of it online without a paid subscription.

  3. So what are these atrocities committed by the CCP? It’s more or less a tautology that demonstrators of any kind will inflate the cruelty of their opponents. If you don’t take CCP propaganda at face value, why trust the rioters?

  4. In this particular case you should note that the riots only happened after police killed peaceful protestors.
    I’m not quite sure what you mean by your last question. What does believing CCP propaganda have to do with believing that villagers were protesting pollution in their community? I’ve seen quite a few cities and towns in China, and they are almost all pretty heavily polluted.

  5. It’s well known that China is polluted to a hilarious degree. That may be valid, but this statement: “In this particular case you should note that the riots only happened after police killed peaceful protestors.”

    “Thousands of villagers rioted in eastern China, injuring dozens of police, after two of about 200 elderly women protesting over factory pollution died during efforts to disperse them”- From source article

    So, while it’s possible that the police may have been unnecessarily brutal, it wasn’t exactly Tiananmen square where everyone went “HAY GUYS! WE HAVE TANKS! LET’S RUN OVER THE PROTESTORS!” Such deaths not the intention in this case, and it may be difficult to truck fragile elderly off without severely harming them.

    What is meant by the last statement, is, you cannot realistically expect the protestors to say “Hay guys, we’re in the wrong in this situation, we overreacted and decided to riot, and the incident was not as big as we made it sound.”, even if this were the case.

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