Chinese media tell truth about riots

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Wilf Day
Chinese media tell truth about riots

Shanghai Daily, from Xinhua news agency:

STREETS have been locked down in Longnan, Gansu Province, after thousands of residents attacked the city’s Party committee office building in a protest over relocation issues, Xinhua news agency reported.

More than 60 people, including police officers and state cadres, were seriously injured as the violence erupted on Monday and continued until last night.

The protests began when negotiations broke down between dozens of relocated residents and officials from the Communist Party Committee of Longnan City, the report said.

The city government had relocated an unclear number of residents so that it could build a new administrative office center, according to Xinhua.

More 30 relocated families went to the Party committee on Monday morning petitioning city leaders to solve their housing issues. Officials entered negotiations, but no agreement was reached, the report said.

More people joined the families and soon the mob began to smash the Party committee’s office building. Some beat up armed police soldiers at the scene, destroyed vehicles and vandalized office building facilities, the report said. Police officers were ordered to evacuate the area, which led to a much bigger response later.

People at the gate of the Party committee building began to throw stones, bricks and even pots at officials and police officers. They also used iron bars, chains, axes and pick hammers to attack the officials and police officers starting at 9pm on Monday, the report said.

Some mob participants smashed 11 government vehicles and were involved in robbery, Xinhua said.

Gansu has set up a task force to handle the emergency situation, the report said, adding that Longnan Television station broadcast a government announcement to tell people the truth.

China Daily:

More than 30 residents in Dongjiang Town, Wudu District, who faced resettlement, gathered at the city's government around 9:30 a.m. on Monday, asking the authorities for proper solutions concerning their farmland, housing and livelihoods.

The unrest resulted from a planned relocation of the city's government which would force the residents to be resettled. The protesters talked with some officials on Monday but they failed to reach any agreement. On Monday night, more people joined them and some of the protesters attacked government buildings, damaged vehicles and facilities, and injured some policemen.

The government's relocation plan has not been approved by the central government yet, the report said.

People's Daily website:


On Wednesday, the website of the People's Daily, the party's mouthpiece, published a comment piece blaming the local government for the riot, in an unusual move apparently aimed at placating the protesters.

The report pointed out that the protest had been triggered by a small number of people but had been allowed to escalate.

'Just over 30 people is not a lot, if the local government authorities had conscientiously received them, conscientiously listened to them, protected their personal interests, would the mass protest have happened afterwards?'

'Therefore... the incident in Longnan has revealed that some local governments ignore people's interests, and that they look down on solving conflicts'.

The government said the protest was triggered on Monday by about 30 people whose houses had been demolished to make way for a new government building, in an apparent typical 'land grab' case that often leads to protests in China.

But as the global economic slowdown hits China and thousands of workers are laid off, the Communist Party is becoming increasingly concerned that any protest might escalate into broader unrest and form a challenge to its rule.

The protest was so dramatic and visible that the State media reported it almost immediately.

Reports surfacing on Internet blogs suggested that the demonstration went on till Tuesday morning as protestors camped at the place through the night and the police chose not to break up the crowd out of fear of backlash.

Internet postings suggested that the people of Longnan are refusing to accept a government relocation program to make way for a new government building that was being partially funded by earthquake relief funds. Gansu, which neighbours Sichuan province, was also affected by the May 12 earthquake though to a lesser degree.

Chinese politicians, who have been talking about creating an "harmonious society", has been worried about the rising resentment among the people over income differences and official corruption that often result in land sharks and property dealers taking away the homes and property of the poor and the middle class.

New York Times:

residents cited the plan to move the government offices. The move, they said, would lower real estate values and deprive Longnan of desperately needed jobs.


Wilf Day

The city mapped out a redevelopment plan in 2006 to build a new development area in Dongjiang and started mass relocations. 

The Dongjiang households, most of them farmers, have since been living in temporary shelters, waiting to move into the new development. But discontent has been simmering in Wudu and Dongjiang since March as rumours spread that the municipality's administrative centre was moving to Cheng county.

It grew stronger in September when local media reported the move would be part of the post-earthquake redevelopment. Longnan was one of the areas in Gansu worst hit by the May 12 quake, with 275 people dead and more than 6,000 injured.

"The government promised many things in 2006, but when the administrative centre moves to another county, do you think they will continue with the development plan?" a driver who took part in the protests said. "We are a poor city. Why should they use the quake relief fund to build a new office compound rather than develop the city?" He said Wudu residents felt they had been "deserted" and would struggle to make a living after the government moved its office.

Some residents in temporary housing, waiting to move into the new buildings, also feared the project would be halted and they would have to stay in the shelters.

Longnan region ("prefecture") has 2,676,100 people. Within it is Wudu "urban" district with 517,148 people. Within that are six urban townships, one of which is Chengguan with 42,656 people. Within that is the actual capital of Longnan town with only 17,000 people. One of the other five urban townships is Dongjiang Town, which is actually where the rioters were from. All these little towns are built in valleys in a mountainous region, which somehow contains 2,676,100 people.

The tip of the iceberg? 

Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu said police "should be fully aware of the challenge brought by the global financial crisis and try their best to maintain social stability," according to the China Daily.

"Actually, there were only a few thousand petitioners, but police fired tear gas which made women and children sick. This made the others angry," he said.

China approved a 4 trillion yuan (391 billion pounds) government spending package earlier this month to pump up demand as annual growth in the third quarter slumped to 9 percent, putting the country on track for its first single-digit expansion since 2002.

Faltering economic conditions have raised the spectre of growth falling below 8 percent, which the government regards as a benchmark to create enough jobs to sop up excess labour and guarantee social stability.

The Longnan rioting follows a number of strikes by taxi drivers and labour protests in the country's major export regions, where thousands of factories have closed in recent months, prompting fears the global financial crisis could stir wider popular unrest.

IMA Asia, a business intelligence provider, said it had raised its political risk rating for China from low to medium without any mention of the Gansu trouble.

"We are concerned about the potential for unrest within a massive pool of migrant workers who face lay-offs in the construction and export manufacturing sectors," it said.

(What happened to the edit button? Ah, it's back. You can't edit your first post in a thread.)


I understand that no country has as many annual public protests as China does. But I can't imagine as many protests happening here in the west or the police dealing with so many people all at once. The authorities here won't put up with so much as a tent city cluttering green space, or one student stepping off the curb and blocking a lane of sparse traffic in protest of high tuition fees in David Orazietti's riding of Sault Ste Marie. Canadians are so polite and mindful of the law.