Meanwhile, over in China… by mattsteinglass
June 21, 2009, 11:13 pm
Filed under: China

…something like ten thousand people rioted at a hotel in Shishou, Hubei Province, over the mysterious death of a 24-year-old chef. In previous cases of this sort, the popular outrage has involved excesses committed by Party officials. But I haven’t seen any info yet on how exactly this chef died that would provoke thousands of people to overturn police cars and try to set the hotel on fire. China Digital Times has collected some YouTube video:

That’s a lot of riot police.


2 Comments so far
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This is what I’m talking about when I say the countryside is as much and maybe more anti-government than the big cities. You are far more likely to hear about this kind of thing happening out in a country town or village, where communal ties are still relatively strong and the unjust (or perceived as unjust) death of a community member is likely to be of note to the rest of the community than you are in the big cities. Twitter has been on this stuff all day, but haven’t seen anything from the people on site – I think it unlikely that anyone in the city is even on on Twitter, unlike Beijing Shanghai, Shenzhen or even Nanjing.

All I can say is that this kind of thing happens all the time, maybe the police response isn’t as big as it was in this case, but it happens regularly enough that just by being in China for a few years you can see some big ones. Off the top of my head, I have seen:

1) Disposed farmers protesting outside the university which I worked at which had been built on their land for derisory compensation. They pelted the bus I was on with stones/bottles, the police moved in but I don’t know what happened afterwards (no news report).

2) Teachers and students at the same university protesting the university’s refusal to pay compensation to the family of a teacher who had died on the job, I was hustled out of the area as the teachers thought that a foreign obvserver might cause the police to take a more heavy-handed approach.

3) A wild-cat strike at a local factory when I used to work at Foxconn in Longhua, Shenzhen. This one happened just down the road from where I lived and erupted as I was on my way to work. The workers poured out onto the street and attempted to block the traffic on a six-lane motorway, the cab driver swerved onto the pavement and got round the blockade just before they sealed the gap. Afterwards the riot police moved in and cleared them away, there was no report in any of the news.

4) Not really a riot this, but indicative. My boss at the same university as mentioned above was actually a fairly noted translator and well known enough in the city to make the papers every so often. He stabbed our office secretary one day with a knife at least 12″ long knife, and then killed himself by jumping from the 4th floor, the secretary survived because of prompt medical attention. After a few days of rampant speculation, all the university staff were gathered together and told never to speak on the matter again, and generally, people stuck to that rule. None of the local news reported the incident.

Comment by FOARP

Yeah, this is one of the things that seems quite different to me in China. Wildcat strikes break out pretty frequently in Vietnam, too, but I’ve never heard of the workers trying to block adjacent roadways — they generally try to block the factory gate — and the worst violence I’ve heard of was a strike in the south where the workers pelted guards and management with baggies of ultra-stinky “mam tom” fermented shrimp paste. (To be frank, I’d rather be hit with a truncheon than pelted with mam tom. That stuff is nasty.) But the pattern in Vietnam is: workers strike; local labor officials and government-run Labor Union come in to mediate between workers and management; strike lasts 2 days to a week; management offers a raise. It just doesn’t get real violent. It seems to me like China is much more confrontational. Of course, at some point, that might mean China starts to get representative democratic institutions before Vietnam does.

Comment by mattsteinglass

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