There’s a long, painful article in today’s WaPo on Chinese tobacco farmers whose rage against local corrupt (and murderous) officials finally reached the breaking point. At first glance, it looks like the government was stepping in to curb illegal tobaco sales, but there’s far more to it – the “crackdown” was more likely revenge for the villagers failing to pay the required bribes. In the crackdown, two of the villagers were killed, apparently beaten to death with iron bars.

Local officials described the deaths as a pair of freak accidents. But the villagers of Shangdeng said they were convinced the two men were killed deliberately by members of the anti-smuggling squad who were carrying iron bars. Outraged by the news, relatives, friends and fellow smugglers gathered shortly after dawn in front of Yantang city hall, demanding an explanation from municipal authorities with jurisdiction over local villages.

The white-tiled building was padlocked tight and nobody came out to face the crowd, recalled Deng Suilong, 54, Deng Silong’s older brother. The number of protesters swelled quickly to several hundred, he said, which meant that most of the men from among Shangdeng’s 1,000 residents were on hand and angry. “They were all yelling and screaming,” said one of the men present, who declined to provide his name for fear of prosecution.

Their rage growing, the peasants broke down the door to city hall and burst inside, witnesses said. They rushed up to the main offices on the second floor, and some of them began sacking everything in sight. The building’s blue-tinted windows were shattered on several of the five stories, the witnesses said, and tables, chairs and desks were broken into pieces.

When the Yantang Communist Party secretary, Liu Tangxiong, showed up with several other officials to try and calm the mob, a local official said, the peasants knocked his front teeth out and continued their rampage unhindered until it was time to go home for a late breakfast.

The violence in Yantang, although small in scale, was part of what officials say is a growing trend of assaults against police, officials and government property in China. The Public Security Ministry estimates that more than 1,800 policemen were attacked in the line of duty in the first six months of this year, sharply up from previous years. A ministry spokesman, Wu Heping, was quoted by the official party organ, the People’s Daily, as saying that 23 policemen were killed in a broad range of clashes with “criminal suspects or people intending to interfere with law enforcement through violence.”

Much of the damage to cars or buildings, and injuries to police and other officials, occurred during riots and other violent disturbances that have broken out in towns and villages across China with increasing frequency. The ministry estimates that 74,000 such incidents erupted in 2004, involving 3.76 million people.

The unrest has become a major concern for the government of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. Most of the uprisings have exploded in reaction to economic complaints, such as land confiscations or pollution, as China evolves swiftly but unevenly under the impetus of market reforms. But the disturbances — and the willingness to clash with police or civilian officials — also have revealed a growing sense of disillusionment with local Communist Party administrations, suggesting a politically significant break in trust between those who govern China’s towns and villages and those they govern.

It’s the corruption, stupid. Read the article’s last two paragraphs about the perversion of the local election, and see for yourselves how the system is rotten and corrupt to its very core. As long as the people are given no true representation, wounds like this will fester and ripen.

The Discussion: 3 Comments

The Washington post has a poor credibility even within US audiences, it has seen many scandals in the past. There’s a famous American phrase within the journalism community that “Washington Post is a poor newspaper.”

December 4, 2005 @ 10:00 pm | Comment

That’s complete crap, HX. The WAPO may show its biases, and have the normal errors, but it’s surpassed the New York Times in quality, and NOWHERE in the “journalism community” is it known as a poor newspaper. Do you just make this stuff up out of thin air?

the peasants knocked his front teeth out and continued their rampage unhindered until it was time to go home for a late breakfast.

This sentence tickled me. Sort of a leisurely morning of recreational rampaging! “After brunch, what do you say we go set the factory on fire?”

December 4, 2005 @ 10:07 pm | Comment

Why does anyone even bother replying to HX? She/he has made it clear, time and time again that she/he is nothing more than a nationalistic, lying troll. Ignore the comments and eventually they’ll get bored and go away.

December 5, 2005 @ 5:50 am | Comment

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