It Gets Worse…

H0ward Fr3nch reports on the latest unr3st:

Residents of a fishing village near Hong Kong said that as many as 20 people had been killed by p@ramilitary p0lice in an unusually violent cl@sh that marked an escalation in the widespread social pr0t3sts that have roiled the Chinese countryside. Villagers said that as many as 50 other residents remain unaccounted for since the shooting. It is the largest known use of force by secur1ty forces against ordinary citizens since the killings around T1@n@nm3n Squ@r3 in l989.

Rest of the article continues below…let me know if this creates any access difficulties…

UPDATE: An irate poster (if I am not overstating his response) comments that this sounds like another one of those stories which was overstated in the early reporting (a la that notorious UK Guardian piece a couple months back). I meant to add a disclaimer to the effect that it is really too soon to know for certain what has happened here. But French’s reporting is usually pretty solid. So we’ll see.

The violence began after dark in the town of D0ng-zh0u on Tuesday evening. Terrified residents said their hamlet has remained occupied by thousands of security forces, who have blocked off all access roads and are reportedly arresting residents who attempt to leave the area in the wake of the heavily armed assault.

“From about 7 p.m. the p0lice started firing tear gas into the crowd, but this failed to scare people,” said a resident who gave his name only as Li and claimed to have been at the scene, where a relative of his was killed. “Later, we heard more than 10 explosions, and thought they were just detonators, so nobody was scared. At about 8 p.m. they started using guns, shooting bullets into the ground, but not really targeting anybody.

“Finally, at about 10 p.m. they started killing people.”

The use of live ammunition to put down a pr0t3st is almost unheard of in China, where the authorities have come to rely on rapid deployment of huge numbers of s3curity forces, te@r gas, water cannons and other non-lethal measures. But Chinese authorities have become increasingly nervous in recent months over the proliferation of d3m0nstr@ti0ns across the countryside, particularly in heavily industrialized eastern provinces like Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiansu. By the government’s tally there were 74,000 riots or other significant public disturbances in 2004, a big jump from previous years.

The villagers in D0ng-zh0u said their dispute with the authorities had begun with a conflict over plans by a power company to build a coal-fired generator in their area, which they feared would cause heavy pollution. Farmers said they had not been compensated for the use of the land for the plant. Others said plans to reclaim land by filling in a local bay as part of the power plant project were unacceptable because people have made their livelihoods there as fishermen for generations. Already, villagers complained, work crews have been blasting a nearby mountainside for rubble for the landfill.

A small group of villagers was delegated to complain to the authorities about the plant in July, but they were arrested, infuriating other residents and encouraging others to join the pr0t3st m0v3ment. On Dec. 6, while villagers were mounting a sit-in d3m0nstrati0n, p0lice made a number of arr3sts, bringing lots of people out into the streets, where they managed to detain several officers. In response, hundreds of law enforcement agents were rushed to the scene. Everybody, young and old, “went out to watch,” said one man who claimed his cousin had been killed by a police officer’s bullet in the forehead. “We didn’t expect they were so evil. The farmers had no means to resist them.”

Early reports from the village said the police opened fire only after villagers began throwing homemade b0mbs and other miss1les, but villagers reached by telephone today denied this, saying that a few farmers had launched ordinary fireworks at the police as part of their pr0t3st. “Those were not b0mbs, they were fireworks, the kind that fly up into the sky,” said one witness reached by telephone. “The organizers didn’t have any money, so someone bought fireworks and placed them there. At the moment the trouble started many of the d3monstrat0rs were holding them, and of those who held fireworks, almost everyone was killed.”

Other witnesses estimated that 10 people were killed immediately in the first volley of automatic gunfire. “I live not far from the scene, and I was running as fast as I could,” said one witness, who declined to give his name. “I dragged one of the people they killed, a man in his 30’s who was shot in his chest. Initially I thought he might survive, because he was still breathing, but he was panting heavily, and as soon as I pulled him aside, he died.”

The witness said that he, too, had come under fire when the p0lice saw him coming to the aid of the dying man. The Chinese government has yet to issue a statement about the incident, nor has it been reported in the state media. Reached by telephone, an official in the city of Sh@nw3i, which has jurisdiction over the village, said, “Yes, there was an incident, but we don’t know the details.” The official said an official announcement would be made on Saturday.

Villagers said that in addition to the regular security f0rces, the authorities had enlisted thugs from local organized crime groups to help put down the demonstration. “They had knives and sticks in their hands, and they were two or three layers thick, lining the road,” one man said. “They stood in front of the armed police, and when the tear g@s was launched, the thugs were all ducking.”

Like the D0ng-zh0u incident itself, most of the thousands of ri0ts and public disturb@nces recorded in China this year have involved environmental, property r1ghts and land use issues. Among other problems, in trying to come to grips with the growing rural unr3st, the Chinese government is wrestling with a yawning gap in incomes between farmers and urban dwellers, and rampant corruption in local government, where unaccountable officials deal away communal property rights, often for their own profit.

Finally, mobile telephone technology has made it easier for people in rural China to organize, communicating news to one another by short messages, and increasingly allowing them to stay in touch with members of non-governmental organizations in big cities who are eager to advise them or provide legal help.

Over the last three days, residents of the village say that other than people looking for their missing relatives, few people have dared go outside. Meanwhile, the p0lice and other s3curity forces have reportedly combed the village house by house, looking for leaders of the d3m0nstr@ti0n and making arrests.

Residents said that after the villagers’ d3m0nstr@t1on was suppressed a senior Communist Party official came to the hamlet from the nearby city of Shanwei and addressed residents with a megaphone. “Sh@nw3i and D0ng-zh0u are still good friends,” the party official said. “We’re not here against you. We are here to make the construction of the Red Se@ B@y better. Later, the official reportedly told visitors, “all of the families who have people who died must send a representative to the police for a solution.”

Today, a group of 100 or so bereaved villagers gathered at a bridge leading into the town, briefly blocking access to security f0rces hoisting a white banner whose black-ink characters read: “The dead suffered a wrong. Uphold just1ce.”

The Discussion: 15 Comments

Howie there is way behind; these stories have snowballed from two dead, to four, to hundreds dead now.

What’s suprising is, such an atrocity rivaling TAM has zero blog pages from the Chinese netters. There are still loads of Chinese blog pages on Taishi, but I can’t seem to find one about Dongzhou’s “hundreds dead” on Baidu, Sohu, or Yahoo CN.

Very curious. Another one of those “eyes hanging out of socket” type of story?

December 9, 2005 @ 3:00 pm | Comment

who knows, and I was going to post a disclaimer to that effect. But Howard French is usually pretty accurate.

Home sick and can’t write much now…

December 9, 2005 @ 3:29 pm | Comment

While I cannot deny that a serious incident happened in that village, there are too many unknowns at this time to make a conclusion. We don’t know exactly what happened, we don’t know the detailed course of events. Most of these reports are through 2nd-person, 3rd-person, 4th-person, 5th-person, or even 6th-person accounts, and many rumors or exaggerations will be inevitably added to it. For example, (a newspaper for Falungong) is reporting that 700 people killed, other more extreme sources say 8000 have been killed… But there are more reputable sources that report that no one has been killed, but people have indeed been injured.

The fact is, we don’t know what happened yet, let’s just stay calm and wait for the facts to come in through official and reliable channels. By creating rumors and unreliables sensations, we will only hinder the investigations and prevent the real truths from reaching people, and that only hurt the poor villagers at the end.

So please, all responsible people, please do not comment on this issue for now until things have been confirmed.

December 9, 2005 @ 4:27 pm | Comment

HongXing, Renminbao claimed more than 70 people has been killed, not 700.

December 9, 2005 @ 5:02 pm | Comment

Dongzhou Incident Update 1

So with the publication of news in the New York Times, the story out of Dongzhou becomes an item in the blogosphere.
Peking Duck {Martyn} ran with the story when it first appeared in the SCMP a few days ago. Lisa at the Peking Duck follows with a post co

December 9, 2005 @ 6:34 pm | Comment

Hong Xing

please do not comment on this issue for now until things have been confirmed.

How many peaceful pr0test0rs were killed in Ti@n@nmen? Dozens? Hundreds? thousands? Or, as the government says, zero?

Don’t know, it’s never been confirmed. Guess we’d all better keep quiet until it is.

How many dem0nstrat0rs were gunned down in Uzbekistan? Hundreds? Thousands? Or, again, the government provided number of zero?

Don’t ask me. No confirmation exists and, as in China, the government has done all it can to see one never does.

Silence until all facts are known is a prescription for eternal silence when dealing with regimes who distort those facts that can’t be buried entirely.

From the Associated Press:

A 14-year-old girl said a local official visited the village Friday and called the shootings “a misunderstanding. “He said he hoped it wouldn’t become a big issue,” the girl said by telephone. She added: “Come save us.”

Sorry dear. We’ve got to wait for all the facts.

December 9, 2005 @ 7:06 pm | Comment

???, I changed the spelling on several sensitive words/phrases in your comment. I may be overreacting, but some have been known to get the Net Nanny’s knickers in a twist – the last time TPD was inaccessible on the mainland we were posting about another sensitive village incident, so I’m tending towards the cautious.

Thanks for the AP mention, which tends to support French’s reporting. The article can be found here. I’ll add an update on the front page as well.

December 9, 2005 @ 9:46 pm | Comment

Yeah. Still waiting for confirmation from 6.4. As it can only come from the butchers who hide behind the laws they make and ignore, I doubt fascist apologists like HongXing wil ever admit satisfaction.
It’s in the NYTimes today:
It adds why the CCP REALLY wants to register its subjects speech: “cellphones have made it easier for people in rural China to organize, communicating news to one another by text messages, and increasingly allowing them to stay in touch with members of nongovernmental organizations in big cities who have been eager to advise them or to provide legal help.

December 10, 2005 @ 1:02 am | Comment

Check this out:

December 10, 2005 @ 1:04 am | Comment

Couldn’t get through, Keir – a hint?

December 10, 2005 @ 1:16 am | Comment

(Sarcasm alert):

“While we cannot deny that something serious happened at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp between 1941-1945, there are too many unknowns to make a conclusion.

We don’t know exactly what happened at Auschwitz, we don’t know the detailed course of events.
(And LITERALLY, this IS true, to this day.) Most reports of Auschwitz are NOT first-person accounts. Most reports of Auschwitz are hearsay.
(This is literally true, and it will be even MORE true after the last survivor of Auschwitz dies.)

Let’s just stay calm and wait for the reliable, official channels of the Nazi Party to tell us what really happened at Auschwitz. All responsible people should avoid commenting on Auschwitz until the Nazi Party tells us what happened.”

….Ah, and yeah, THIS IS what the Nazis would be saying about Auschwitz TO THIS DAY, if the Nazis were still in power today.

Now let me find my copy of Dante’s “Inferno” and try to find the appropriate place in Hell for political whores like HongXing….hang on, let me look it up…..

December 10, 2005 @ 6:53 am | Comment

Ah yes, now I’ve got it. As HongXing is merely a political whore without any personality of his own, he belongs in the Vestibule of Dante’s Inferno, where the souls whose lives had no meaning are sent, not really in Heaven or Hell or anywhere. The Vestibule is where opportunist whores like HongXing go, and their fate is to run around forever, being chased and stung by wasps, and Dante says , of HongXing and other such whores:

“This miserable way is taken by the sorry souls of those who lived without shame and without praise….Heaven, so that its beauty will not be lessened, has cast them out – but Hell will not receive them, because even the wicked cannot glory in them…let us not talk of them, but ignore them and move on….”

December 10, 2005 @ 7:09 am | Comment

Always forthright Chinese officials tell us fewer than 20 people killed:

“The death toll is definitely fewer than 20 people,” Liu Jingmao, deputy head of the Shanwei government’s propaganda department, told Bloomberg News today in a telephone interview. “We will make an announcement tomorrow.”

So that’s settled then.

Besides, what’s a lousy 20 dead Chinese?

Take the total number of Chinese killed by the CCP (75 million), and divide it by the number of days that the CCP has been in power (20470), and you can see that, on December 6, 2005, the Chinese government would have had to kill another 3,643 just to maintain their daily average.

And people say Beijing isn’t reforming.

December 10, 2005 @ 7:54 am | Comment

Ok, I will trust the AP that this incident has happened. AP is a responsible international news station, I don’t think they’ll misreport like some Falun Gong groups.

This incident is actually very very serious. It just shows how there are so many police officers in China’s local levels who are not given proper training in handling firearms, and as a result, do not have a clear idea of the “rules of engagements”, and sometimes, in trying to put down mobsters, will cause unacceptable civillian damages. There’s no accuse, 20 people have died, my God. These police and their chiefs should receive severe and due punishments.

But I think these punishments are no where near enough. There is a much more deeper and serious problem here. That is, there’s not enough high-educated police officers being hired in China’s local levels, and there’s not enough budget to provide those officers training in firearms and rules of conducts. It is too easy to blame some rogue officers, but we should look into higher level problems. Some questions we can ask is

1) What is causing this huge gap between supply and demand of law enforcement officers in China?

2) Why is it so hard to increase the budget of local police stations? The economics behind this very convoluted.

For question 1, this is only a small portion of a bigger labor supply and demand issue that has plagued China for a long time. For an insightful analyis, I suggest reading the following:

“The Emerging Global Labor Market”

The second question is an internal budget issue for policy makers in China. I hope Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao can take heed of this incident and rethink how budget should be strucutured at the local levels.

December 10, 2005 @ 11:58 am | Comment

So, does this story just go away like Andijan?… where in a few months the Chinese officials will arrest a few Dongzhou villagers and put them on trial as instigators? I am curious how the world will react to this. Maybe ??? is right, just another 20 Chinese. How sad!

December 10, 2005 @ 10:47 pm | Comment

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