After the riots…

…all that’s left are the photos.


You can find many others over at ACB.

The Discussion: 13 Comments

After Jing’s accusation, I want to make it very clear, I didn’t take these pictures myself (suicide), follow the link below them for the original source. There is also a personal account of the aftermatth there.

April 24, 2005 @ 12:41 am | Comment

here is a question:
on one hand, there is much disgust at the vandalism during the anti-japanese demonstration in shanghai.
on the other hand, the amount of violence in these pictures is a lot worse. dozens of people were sent to hospital, including a police officer with his hand chopped off. but nobody is condemning this.
question: is the violence at huankantou justified because it is a response to oppression?
just curious …

April 24, 2005 @ 1:17 am | Comment

“shhh, be very quiet, the buses are napping now…”

April 24, 2005 @ 2:08 am | Comment

I’ve read your words here at The Peking Duck and followed your links so I know the pictures are from elsewhere. I read the words at ACB and know he’s linking the pictures from a site that is in Chinese and thank goodness for that since when I clicked on that link it was indecipherable to me and the information was unknowable and unfindable. Thanks to both of you. No issue there. Jing needs to RTFA before commenting. I’ve linked this site and put you in my bookmarks because you are keeping an eye on a part of the world that my usual US/British sites underreport. You and ACB give me a view into a part of the world I couldn’t get otherwise and a viewpoint that informs my viewpoint. Good work and thanks for being there. BTW – if you’re curious, my links aren’t working at the moment -DNS poisoning attack at my host.

April 24, 2005 @ 7:47 am | Comment

ESWN – that’s a really thought provoking point that you make. I also have to admit, that I don’t have an answer to it. Hmmm … I’m going to have to mull over it. In the meantime, I hope others respond to it, in order to give me some more ideas on the topic.

April 24, 2005 @ 9:53 am | Comment

Great question, eswn. Let me start.

Before saying another word, I have to urge all readers to read about the background of the Huankantou story. Once you read this post, you’ll have better perspective on why Huankantou happened.

The story is one of monstrous abuse occurring right now in real time. People’s lives, food, water, land and homes are at stake. The story is heart-wrenching and ugly, a case study in the evils of corruption as practiced by the village cadres.

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary….

There comes a breaking point for all tragically oppressed people, be they in the Warsaw ghetto or Abu Ghraib or pre-revolution Paris. These were instances of riots and uproar for specific reasons, with specific goals, and exercised as drastic last resorts. They are about people whose lives were in danger, or at least their freedoms.

Is there a time for violence and uprising? There certainly is, and I can’t see how anyone reading about Huankantou can conclude these people didn’t have a license to rise up.

Their rampage was a plea, and hopefully it will not have been in vain. They made their way into the world’s headlines and underscored just how malevolent the corruption vortex in rural China can be, where life is cheap and everything and everyone expendable if it helps line the pockets of the cadres and corrupt business people. After the four years of sheer hell described in the aforementioned link, was there a choice? I really doubt it.

The anti-Japan riots seemed to me on a different level. The damage to property was relatively slight, though the damage to China’s reputation was significant. Huankantou made the Party appear repellent, but not the demonstrators. Most of the world’s sympathy was with them. Not so with the city riots against Japan, where, sadly and perhaps even unfairly, the average Chinese demonstrator appeared immature, insecure and hypersensitive to the point of being literally out of control (and please note the use of the word APPEAR in that sentence — they weren’t all or even most like this, but that is how they came across). Very few readers around the world, as they read about these protests over their morning coffee, looked up and said tearfully, “God, my heart goes out to these oppressed souls and I want to see them succeed.” Mostly (based on all I’ve read) it generated a lot of mystification from a world that doesn’t understand the history behind it, and a lot of reinforcement of the notion that China is still prickly, diplomatically awkward (to quote Ross Terrill) and a bit childish. Again, I’m not saying this is true. It is true, however, that even most China hands and correspondents saw it this way.

So the bottom line for me is that the violence in Huankantou is understandable and most likely justifiable based on what I’ve read. The violence from “the other riots” was counter-productive and pointless. Throwing eggs at Japanese restaurants owned by Chinese people was a particularly grim example of the mindlessness of the demontrators.

The Japanese issue can and should be solved diplomatically, and I won’t be surprised if Hu and Koizumi come to some agreement in the near future. .The Huankantou villagers had gone through the diplomatic route and met the usual bureaucratic stonewalling. What they did may in the long run hurt them. It may cost many their lives, I don’t know. But at thiis point they had practically nothing to lose, like the Warsaw ghetto Jews. I don’t like violence, but I condone it in extreme cases where people are being oppressed by an inhumane and exploitive government.

April 24, 2005 @ 10:58 am | Comment

Update: Readers who want a panoramic view of the Huankantou catastrophe must (repeat, must) read this.

April 24, 2005 @ 11:15 am | Comment

i’m not really satisfied with richard’s answer above. let me be more pointed.
at this moment, i’m looking at the picture of the two buses ‘napping’ on their sides
at one end of the scale, if the police attack you and you believe you have just cause, your counterattack is justifiable self-defense.

at the other end of the scale, when you counterattack, you capture the police, you torture them and then you hanging them from trees. that is … ahem … deplorable, to say the least.

where is the line between the two ends of the scale? more specifically, where does this picture fit in? the villagers have already chased the police away. so why is it necessary to vandalise perfectly good buses? i guess it is mob rage, but what should observers say about that. condone, condemn or shut up?

April 24, 2005 @ 11:54 am | Comment

I’ll buy that. I wasn’t thinking of the torture of the police, I admit, just about the ignition of the riots — there is never an excuse for sadistic violence. I also condemn their burning property, but I think if I were in their shoes I might be so crazed as to do the same thing. These people were abused beyond our comprehension. That doesn’t excuse their sadism, but it sheds a lot of light on it, like concentration camp victims ripping apart the guards at the end of the war (a documented fact) – awful, but under the circumstances, my sympathy is more with the prisoners than with the SS.

April 24, 2005 @ 12:04 pm | Comment

Good exchange … but I’m now pondering another point. If you consider the Chinese point of view, that no matter what they do, they cann’t get the Japanese to properly acknowledge and atone for past wrongs … then what is left other than to take to the streets to express your outrage? It could be said that both types of riots represent people taking action into their own hands, because they feel there’s nothing else that can do any good …

(not that I necessarily agree with this point of view … but how can it be responded to?)

April 25, 2005 @ 1:32 am | Comment

i realize that this maybe a highly academic and hypothetical question.

but i was looking at that picture of the two buses ‘napping’ on their sides. and then i realized that it was not very easy to accomplish it. you would need dozens of people to topple the bus on the right first, and then they could tackle on the one on the left next, and more if there are buses further down. this is not a moment of rage, but it was a planned process of extended vandalism.

what bothered me personally was that until that moment, i had taken for granted that is was alright to do that in name of citizen self-defense. i had not given it any thought. now that was the most distrubing part.

April 25, 2005 @ 3:52 am | Comment

Very good points from all sides. I don’t think we should condone any form of violence (except extremes as in the Warsaw case), and I always feel disturbed by the violent side of Huankantou story. But what’s also important is the different context involving Anti-Japanese protest and Huankantou. This makes the former story more akin to SS violence on Crystal Night, and the latter to Warsaw uprising, though not entirely such.

April 25, 2005 @ 4:17 am | Comment

I guess when your child is stillborn because someone remorselessly poisoned it for no good reason but greed, rolling a bus is not beyond the pale.

April 28, 2005 @ 7:55 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.