Ethnic Strife in China
Chinese paramilitary police look at the credentials of foreign journalists
before detaining them outside the town of Langchenggang in Henan province, central China.
Further down this page, underneath the double horizontal lines, you will find the reports from New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, Reuters and Time Asia about an inter-ethnic Han-Hui clash in Langchenggang, Henan province, China. This is the perfect example of why censorship is bad -- the official Chinese-language intra-national media were initially silenced and the underground and overseas Chinese-language media were bubbling with these unverified and conflicting accounts from the western media.
How did it get started? The New York Times said that a Hui taxi driver killed a 6-year old girl, but the Associated Press said that three Hui men beat up a 17-year-old Han boy. How would I know?
How many dead? 148 according to the New York Times or 7 according to Reuters. How would I know?
By the time that the official national media reported a few days later, does anyone believe them anymore?
Boiled down to its essence, this is about some kind of traffic accident in which the principals belonged to different ethnic groups, and the incident was blown up into an inter-ethnic conflict. The immediate cause involved some very stupid people who thought conflict resolution should be achieved by physical battery of others, and the longstanding underlying cause is the ethnic conflict between the dominant Han group and the various minorities. The above outline seemed to be accepted by everyone, but the details are fuzzy and contradictory.
In lieu of the above case, I will translate another news report in which sufficient details were published. The immediate cause involves some very stupid people, and the longstanding underlying cause is the ethnic/national conflict between the Chinese and some 'outsiders.'
[The original article appears in Chinese at ChineseNewsNet. Since this is the sole source of the incident that I can find, I cannot guarantee that this is an accurate report. I have rendered an inexact translation for readiblity. Whereas the actual article jumped back and forth, I am presenting a chronological account.]
This incident occurred at Zhejiang University located in the city of Hangzhou. On October 20th, a foreign student named Choco from Korea posted a message on the flea market section of the university bulletin board to sell several Korean clothing items.
Certain members of the bulletin board criticized these clothing items, and stated that they intend to boycott products from Korea, Japan and Taiwan. In response, Choco wrote that the Chinese people have poor taste and that they are impoverished, and she boasted about the wealth and fashion sense of the Koreans.
At that point, a flame war began and the emotions veered towards the extreme. Choco informed the flea market owner that this matter should be settled in public and set a time, date and place of 3pm on October 21st at the university basketball court. The information was published by the flea market owner and many mainland Chinese students planned to be there en masse.
But before that happened, one Chinese student sent a SMS to Choco's mobile phone number that was posted at the bulletin board. The message was this: "Nothing special, but I just want to ask how your mother is." 「沒什麼事情，想問候一下你的母親。」。 Choco then replied by asking the student to identify himself and he replied: "I am your master." 「我是你大爺。」
Later on, Choco would find out who this Chinese student was. She went with her boyfriend from Taiwan and his brother and they barged into the dormitory room of this Chinese student. Choco allegedly said: "All I have to do is to call the university leaders and you will be expelled immediately. Foreign students are very important to the university. If there is a conflict between Chinese students and foreign students, the university will always be on the side of the foreign students." 「我只要給校領導一個電話，就能讓你退學，現在對留學生是很重視的。中國學生和留學生發生衝突，學校保護的是留學生。」 (chinesenewsnet.com
For the sake of settling the matter, the Chinese student agreed to be punched three times by each of them. That meant a total of nine punches took place. Afterwards, the Chinese student had a swollen forehead and a bleeding neck.
The roommates of the Chinese student posted a report of this incident on the university community bulletin board, and this generated mass anger. The univesity students condemned the Korean and Taiwanese students for their behavior, and some even condemned the Chinese student for losing face for himself as well as China.
The Zhejiang University students assembled outside their dormitories and demanded an explanation from the security staff at the unviesity. More than 2,000 students marched with the national flag and sang the national anthem. Students from the other four school campuses of Zhejiang Univesity also came and surrounded the student buildilng. The univeristy leadership came to the scene with the public security officers. The students eventually dispersed at around 2am in the morning.
This does not say anything about Chinese, Korean or Taiwanese students in general. It only says that there are some stupid individuals whose ill-conceived actions sometimes have grave consequences because of certain longstanding unresolved problems such as ethnic strife or nationalism.
Addendum: The following untranslated account supposedly came from a friend of the Chinese student (Boxun):
这时发现翠柏入口早被警察堵住，很多人都进不来。那里华家池的兄弟正和几个老师理论、对质（小弟我也插了几句）。之后就游行了，先经过青溪，再丹阳、蓝田，再到碧峰紫云之间的路上。一路上唱《国歌》、《团结就是力量》。喊讨回公道、维护尊严、是中国人的下来（游行）。有位碧峰的英雄攀过碧峰的大门和大家汇合。（感动 ）。后来的就被老师之类拦住了。到紫云篮球场之间时，有人喊起去玉泉。不好意思这时偶就回来了（还爬门才进的蓝田） 。
所有有良知的同学们，不论中外，请一起来谴责这种霸道和打人的霸行，给当局施压，即使对事情本身无益，至少也要让他们的兽行大白于天下！ cc98 宁小白
昨晚上，学校也太他 妈 的不重视了，连校长都没有来，妈 的，只来了个副的。省公安厅的厅长倒是来了。连武警都来了不少。可是，没有看到我人民解放军英勇顽强的机械化部队。
(New York Times) Martial Law Declared as Nearly 150 Die in Clashes in Central China. By Joseph Kahn. November 1, 2004.
Ethnic clashes between majority Han Chinese and Hui Muslims left almost 150 people dead and forced the authorities to declare martial law in a section of Henan Province in central China, journalists and witnesses in the region said Sunday.
The fighting flared Friday and continued into the weekend after a Hui taxi driver's car hit and killed a 6-year-old Han girl, prompting recriminations between different ethnic groups in neighboring villages, the journalists and witnesses said. One individual briefed on the incident by the police said 148 people had been killed, including 18 police officers sent to quell the violence.
The Chinese news media have reported nothing about unrest in Henan. But a news blackout would not be unusual, because propaganda authorities routinely suppress information about ethnic tensions.
Though most Chinese belong to the dominant Han ethnicity, the country has 55 other ethnic groups, including several Muslim minorities and others with ties to Tibet, Southeast Asia, Korea and Mongolia.
Hui Muslims, scattered in several provinces in the central and western parts of the country, are relatively well integrated into Chinese society and not generally considered a threat to stability.
But outbreaks of Hui unrest were not uncommon in the 1980's, and tensions can bubble to the surface after even minor provocations. Many Hui areas remain impoverished despite rapid economic growth in China's urban and coastal regions, and some members of minority groups say the Han-dominated government does little to steer prosperity to them.
The road accident on Friday set off large-scale fighting after relatives, friends and fellow villagers of the girl who was killed, most of them Han, traveled to the mostly Hui village of the taxi driver to demand compensation. The rival villagers failed to settle their dispute, which quickly grew to involve thousands of people in Zhongmou County between the cities of Zhengzhou and Kaifeng, according to two accounts of the incident.
The local police failed to contain the unrest and authorities deployed the paramilitary People's Armed Police to restore order. Martial law was declared over the weekend, people in the area said, adding that the situation had since stabilized.
One person briefed on the clashes said the authorities might have been particularly alarmed after the police stopped a 17-truck convoy carrying Hui men to the area from other counties and provinces as it passed through Qi County, near Zhongmou. Blockades were set up on major roads in the area, and some bus service was halted.
That suggests that word of the violence may have spread through a network of Hui and perhaps other Muslim groups and that mutual support among them is relatively strong. But details were sketchy and difficult to confirm.
A police officer who answered the telephone in the Zhongmou County public security office on Sunday night declined to provide any information on the matter.
(Washington Post) Ethnic Clashes Result in Martial Law in Rural China. By Philip P. Pan. November 1, 2004.
Government authorities declared martial law in a rural section of central China's Henan Province last week after four days of ethnic clashes there involving thousands of villagers left as many as a dozen people dead and many more injured, witnesses said Monday.
The fighting was between farmers of the country's ethnic Han majority and the Muslim Hui minority living in neighboring villages, as well as thousands of military police sent in to restore order. It appeared to be among the worst incidents of ethnic violence known to have taken place in China in recent years.
The latest unrest followed a clash this summer in a nearby village in which police fired rubber bullets at farmers protesting land seizures and anti-government rioting two weeks ago in the western city of Chongqing. The Henan fighting served as a stark reminder of the varied tensions tearing at this vast nation as it undergoes rapid social and economic change.
A local Muslim official, who asked not to be identified, said the violence began Wednesday after a traffic dispute involving Hui truck drivers and Han villagers in Weitan, a corn- and wheat-farming hamlet located about 400 miles southwest of Beijing outside Kaifeng, the ancient Song Dynasty capital of China.
The fighting soon spread to several nearby villages, where witnesses reached by telephone described large mobs looting, burning down homes and beating people in alternating raids by members of the two ethnic groups. As many as 10,000 anti-riot and military police began pouring into the area beginning Friday, but villagers clashed with them too, swinging iron bars and throwing bricks and stones, witnesses said.
The situation was exacerbated by the arrival of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Muslim Hui from other parts of China who rushed to the region to support their ethnic brethren. Military police set up checkpoints on local highways and, with the help of local imams, persuaded many of the outsiders to turn around and return home, the official said. But residents said some managed to elude the police and join the fighting.
China's state-run media reported nothing about the unrest, complying with a news blackout ordered by the ruling Communist Party's propaganda authorities to avoid further inflaming ethnic tensions, reporters said.
Provincial and county spokesmen and local police officials also refused to comment on the unrest.
One local journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a government source told him nearly 150 people were killed in the rampages, including several police officers, a remarkable toll considering that guns are difficult to obtain in China and were not believed to have been used by the farmers.
But the journalist was unable to provide further details and local officials denied his account. Several residents, including village doctors who treated the wounded, were skeptical too, and said they knew of only about a dozen fatalities. They said many others suffered injuries, including several who were taken to county and provincial hospitals.
The party chief of one of the Hui villages involved in the violence, who gave only his surname, Ma, said about 10 people died in the clashes, but added that the Chinese military restored order to the region on Sunday.
"The upper-level party secretary said this case must be resolved quickly, seriously and strictly," he said. "Under the concern of upper-level officials, people in our village are calm now."
But both Hui and Han residents said the atmosphere remained tense despite the presence of the military police and orders barring people from entering or leaving local villages.
"The situation is very unstable," said the local Muslim official. "We have no feeling of safety. We want to find the culprits, but the provincial leaders say stability is more important and want us to keep working on calming the masses."
Du Pingfang, 40, a Hui doctor in Nanren village who treated several of the injured, said the Han villagers had threatened to kill all Hui residents over the age of three, and people remained frightened. "More than 5,000 soldiers have surrounded our village to protect us, but we're still worried that the Han will launch a surprise attack," he said.
Han residents also expressed fear, saying Hui were arriving in the region from across China. "Many police have been sent here to control the situation, but they can't stop the Hui from coming," said an elderly schoolteacher in Xilang village who said she fled and hid in the fields during much of the violence. She said "almost all adult villagers on both sides joined the fight."
Minivans with loudspeakers strapped to their roofs cruised through the region broadcasting appeals for calm, and similar messages were printed on posters stuck to buildings, the Associated Press reported from a nearby town.
(Associated Press via The Guardian) Rioting in China Town Kills Seven People. By Audra Ang. November 1, 2004.
Violent clashes in a village in central China killed seven people and injured 42, the government said Monday, as police imposed martial law on the area after the fighting between hundreds of rioters that pitted Muslim Chinese against non-Muslims.
The unrest began Wednesday after a traffic accident and lasted through Sunday, the government said in its first official report on the violence. Everything "is now under control,'' it said in the statement, run on the state news agency Xinhua.
Martial law has been imposed on the area in Zhongmou County near the city of Zhengzhou in Henan province, and thousands of police have been sent in to restore order. Eighteen people have been arrested, Xinhua said.
Some 400 to 500 rioters from the Han ethnic majority and the Hui Muslims clashed in the town of Langchenggang, burning several houses, residents said.
On Monday, thousands of police lined the road into the town. They stopped cars at checkpoints outside town, but it wasn't clear whether any were turned away. Foreign reporters who visited the area were detained. Government minivans with loudspeakers strapped to their roofs drove through the town broadcasting appeals for calm.
``I still dare not leave the house,'' said one man, who would give only his surname, Li, and who said he lived a half mile from the scene of the fighting. ``To the west and east are Hui villages. So people are afraid to go outside.''
Hui are ethnic Chinese whose ancestors converted to Islam. Han Chinese make up more than 90 percent of China's 1.3 billion people. The country has 55 officially recognized ethnic groups.
"A lot of people were carrying clubs to fight. They set fire to several houses,'' a Langchenggang resident with the surname Liu said by telephone. "Right now, there are lots of police. The local government is allowing residents to move around but everyone is afraid of going out.''
Residents could not confirm a report by The New York Times that as many as 148 people were killed in the fighting. The government statement did not give details on the traffic accident that sparked the fighting.
The Times said it broke out after a Han girl was struck and killed Friday by a Hui taxi driver. One resident, an accountant, said it began after three Hui men in a car beat up a 17-year-old Han boy who blocked the street. That confrontation escalated until a group of 400-500 Hui came from a nearby town and large-scale clashes occurred, said the accountant.
A spokesman for the county government gave a different version, saying the violence began after a collision Wednesday between two farm vehicles, one driven by a Han and the other by a Hui.
The two men summoned help from relatives and fighting broke out, said the spokesman, Liang Songzhou. He said the violence spread Thursday and Friday. In addition to the one confirmed death, he said there might have been an additional two deaths. "This has nothing to do with ethnicity,'' insisted Liang, deputy directory of the county Propaganda Office. County and provincial officials contacted by phone refused to release any information, and several residents said local officials had told them not to give information to reporters.
On Monday, a reporter who visited the town saw residents sitting outside shabby brick houses beside piles of drying corn. Shattered glass was scattered across the road in the adjacent village of Weitan. Villagers said the debris was left over from an altercation between soldiers and a group of men, but it wasn't clear whether the men were Hui or Han.
China suffers occasional tensions between ethnic groups. They are aggravated in many parts of China's poor countryside, home to some 800 million people, by disputes over rights to scarce farmland and control of lucrative government posts. In December 2000, at least five Hui were shot and killed by police during protests in the eastern province of Shandong after a fight between a Hui and a Han butcher advertising ``Muslim pork.'' Muslim dietary laws forbid the eating of pork.
(Reuters) Martial Law in Chinese Town After Riots Kill Seven. By Lindsay Beck. November 1, 2004.
China declared martial law in part of a central province after at least seven people were killed, 42 injured and numerous houses set ablaze in clashes between minority Muslims and Han Chinese, officials said on Monday.
Armed police patrolled the town of Langchenggang and surrounding areas in Henan province after the violence first erupted last Wednesday following a traffic accident involving members of the Hui Muslim ethnic group and the majority ethnic Han sparked fighting in several villages.
Seven people were killed in the clashes and 42 injured, the municipal government in the provincial capital, Zhengzhou, said in a statement, adding that 18 people had been detained.
People fought with sticks after one of those involved in the accident brought family members to the scene, causing the row to escalate over the weekend, the statement said.
"People were so afraid. No one dared to go to work or go outside. Even the transportation has been stopped," said one resident of a Han village involved who declined to give her name.
She said at least one person in her village had been killed in the fighting and she had heard that several others had died. Another resident of the same village said more than 10 people had been killed.
Officials denied a report in the New York Times that 150 people had been killed. Houses had been burned and residents said the fighting had escalated when Hui villagers from outside the area were trucked in. The situation was now calm but with a heavy police presence.
Clashes between Hui people, who make up just 10 million of China's 1.3 billion population, and Han are not common but tension, exacerbated by a widening wealth gap, has on occasion erupted in violence. In 1993, a cartoon ridiculing Muslims led to paramilitary police storming a mosque taken over by armed Hui in the northwestern city of Xining. In the past decade, scattered minor incidents have been reported around the country.
But unrest in rural areas has been on the rise, fueled by dissatisfaction over poverty and corruption and raising long-held fears among China's iron-fisted authorities of instability that could even affect the supremacy of the Communist Party.
In the last month, a quarrel in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing escalated into a riot that led to looting of government buildings and burning of police cars.
A child from one Hui village involved in the Henan clashes said adults were attending a meeting. Schools were open but students were being kept indoors, he said. Many people reached by telephone refused to talk and hung up. "That village has been isolated. No one there is allowed to go out," said one resident of the Han village, referring to the Hui community at the heart of the fighting.
Martial law was in force, said an official in the nearby city of Kaifeng, who confirmed that Hui farmers had traveled to the scene to help Hui villagers at the time of the fighting. An official with the Zhengzhou public security bureau declined to comment, saying such issues were national secrets until the case was wrapped up.
(AFP) At least 20 killed, 42 injured in central China ethnic clashes, 18 arrested.
At least 20 people have been killed in clashes between the Muslim Hui minority and the Han majority in central China's Henan province, with the area put under military blockade.
"There are more than 10 Hui Muslims who died and more than 10 Han died," said an employee surnamed Wang from a taxi company in Zhongmou county, where the clash occurred.
Residents told AFP violence between Huis and Hans erupted last week after Hui truck drivers from the Hui populated Nanren village tried to pass through a village mostly inhabited by Han Chinese and a Hui was beaten up over a traffic dispute. Villagers from both sides fought each other with farm tools, they said.
The government late Monday confirmed a violent clash occurred. Seven people were killed, 42 injured and 18 arrested, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The clash began on October 27 and continued until Sunday but was now under control, Xinhua said. It said violence erupted when a villager surnamed Lu from Nanren village fought with a man surnamed Liu from Nanwei village over a traffic dispute. Lu and several Nanren villagers later went to Liu's home and assaulted him and his family, Xinhua said. Afterwards, residents of both villages assembled weapons and fought each other. One villager was beaten to death on the spot and two died in hospital a day later, Xinhua said. Of the 42 injured, 19 have been released from hospital, it said. Xinhua did not say the clash was between the Huis and the Hans.
Wang, the taxi company employee, said the violence last week was the worst in memory. "Clashes have happened frequently before but this is the worst," he said. "The two groups used farm tools to fight each other."
The area remained tense and under military blockade Monday, teeming with hundreds of police and paramilitary soldiers. Four foreign journalists who entered the area were detained, and police lining the roads stopped several other reporters from entering. Busloads of armed police in riot gear went into the area.
An imam with Nanren village's mosque said two Huis died in the village and four or five Hans were also killed. He said the unrest had yet to be quelled. Soon afterwards thousands of Han Chinese surrounded Nanren, the imam surnamed Hu said. A confrontation developed in which several houses were burnt down and a brick factory was destroyed, Hu said.
A resident surnamed Han told of 10 other deaths in a related incident Sunday in Liangchenggang village 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) east of Nanren, in which Hui Muslims from other areas arriving apparently to back the Huis in Nanren clashed with anti-riot police.
"I heard that 100 to 200 Muslims arrived from another part of China and they were stopped at a roadblock," Han said. "They got off the bus and started fighting with police. Police used tear gas to disperse them but they got through. I heard that 10 people died in that clash."
Han said he did not know whether police or Muslims died but said he believed the fighting was not over. "The Han Chinese will want revenge," he said. The New York Times reported that almost 150 people were killed but residents sought to play down the figure.
An official surnamed Chen with the Henan Religious Affairs Bureau told AFP: "Officials have been sent there to try and calm down the two sides. When the clash erupted, the situation was intense." Journalists in the region said a news blackout was in force. "They are afraid to trigger conflict among the ethnic groups," said a journalist with Henan Daily.
China's Huis are descendants of Arab and Persian traders. Over the centuries they have mixed so thoroughly with the Han Chinese that they are indistinguishable from each other but for religion, customs and dress codes. The Huis are generally considered among China's best assimilated minorities, but occasional clashes with other groups are known to occur. In early 2002 Huis clashed with Tibetans in a rural county of northwestern Qinghai province, leading to a large number of injuries. Several Huis were handed long jail terms.
(SCMP) Martial law declared to quell riot in Henan. November 2, 2004.
Martial law has been declared in part of Henan province to quell a riot between hundreds of Han Chinese and minority Hui Muslims that left at least seven people dead, 42 injured and a large number of houses burned. Xinhua confirmed yesterday that a violent clash occurred in Langchenggang township in Zhongmou county last Wednesday and continued until Sunday, saying the deaths had occurred "under various circumstances".
It said the situation was under control and 18 rioters had been arrested. According to the report, the violence erupted when a villager surnamed Lu from the county's Nanren village fought with a man surnamed Liu from Nanweitan village over a traffic dispute. Mr Lu and several fellow Nanren villagers followed Mr Liu home after the roadside fight and assaulted him and his family. That led to as many as 500 residents from the two villages taking up weapons and fighting each other.
One villager was beaten to death last Thursday and two died in hospital a day later, according to Xinhua. More violence flared on Friday and Saturday, but was quelled by the police. Of the 42 injured, 19 had been released from hospital. But the agency did not say the clash was between members of the Muslim Hui minority and the Han majority.
Quoting a local source briefed on the incident by police, The New York Times reported yesterday that 148 people had been killed, including 18 police officers sent to quell the violence.
"People were so afraid. No one dared to go to work or go outside. Even transportation has been stopped," said a resident of a Han village involved who declined to give her name. She said at least one person in her village had been killed in the fighting and she had heard that several others had also died. Another resident of the same village said more than 10 people had been killed.
Fearing minority Muslims might be bullied by ethnic Han Chinese, including the police, Muslims in Henan and other provinces were flocking to the county, sources said. A journalist from the local Dahe News said Muslims from the Ningxia Muslim Autonomous Region had come to the aid of their Muslim brothers.
Yesterday, police lined the road from 10km outside the town, spaced every few metres on the dusty shoulder of the narrow two-lane road. Cars were stopped at checkpoints.
A religious affairs expert in Beijing said clashes could be easily triggered in areas where the majority Han Chinese and minorities lived together. "The ethnic Han people may be considered impolite and even offensive sometimes due to their lack of knowledge about ethnic groups' religious habits," said He Xingliang , from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
(Los Angeles Times) Police Keeps Uneasy Vigil After Ethnic Riot in China. By Mark Magnier. November 2, 2004.
Thousands of police maintained an uneasy vigil in central China early today after seven people were killed in a riot pitting minority Hui Muslims against the majority Han Chinese.
Martial law was imposed on Langchenggang in Henan province and 18 people were arrested amid five days of violence that ended Sunday, the government said. Everything "is now under control," authorities said in a statement carried by the state-run New China News Agency.
The exact cause of the violence remained sketchy, and it took several days for word of the incident to leak out.
Associated Press reported that the fighting began after three Hui men in a car beat up a 17-year-old Han boy who blocked the street. The confrontation escalated until a group of 400 to 500 Hui came from a nearby town and large-scale clashes took place. Three local residents reached by the Los Angeles Times by telephone gave variations of the blocked-car story. All of them declined to give their names for fear of getting in trouble with authorities.
Other reports said the uprising erupted after two vehicles collided. The New York Times, which first reported the story, said the incident was sparked by a traffic accident in which a Muslim taxi driver hit and killed a 6-year-old Han girl.
Xing Fengwu, a resident of nearby Kaifeng city, said thousands of police were sent from there into Langchenggang to quell the violence. All public transport was halted for several days in the area and schools were shut down Saturday and Monday, another resident said by phone.
China's media remained mum on the issue until late Monday, when the government news agency confirmed the clashes and said they had led to seven deaths and 42 injuries.
The delay was not unusual given the Communist Party's tight grip on the media and its extreme sensitivity about any issues linked to social conflict.
"Everybody's talking about it. It's a huge incident," said a woman at a tourism agency in nearby Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, who would only give her surname, Liu. "There's no press release, no official reports, no media coverage, only rumors flying around. People say it got pretty bloody."
Han Chinese make up more than 90% of the nation's 1.3 billion people. The Hui minority are ethnic Chinese whose ancestors converted to Islam.
The Henan region has a history of ethnic confrontation, said Zhang Xingshui, a Beijing-based attorney specializing in social and human rights cases. Dozens of minority communities migrated to China centuries ago from Central Asia, many traversing the Silk Road, and settled in a central belt stretching through parts of Henan, Shanxi and Gansu provinces.
They unite in the face of the Han majority, Zhang added, and are quick to defend one another in a confrontation.
Several officials in local police and propaganda offices declined to comment on the clashes.
"I've just gotten a promotion. If I say anything, I'll lose my job," said one official in Zhengzhou.
Xing, the Kaifeng resident, said he had seen several similar clashes in the area over the years, including one in 2002, in which three people were killed. "It doesn't take much to spark these," he said.
Experts said this weekend's riot and others like it underscored the tensions lurking just below the surface in the world's most populous country.
"China's social development has lagged far behind its economic development," said Zhong Dajun, director of the Beijing Dajun Center for Economic Analysis and Studies. "These sorts of culture clashes signal real problems."
In particular, he said, Chinese enjoy competition and choices in their economic lives but lack choices in their political and social lives, creating a disconnect. "The old ideological system is broken but the new one is not yet established," Zhong said. "Without greater democracy, there will surely be increased confrontation."
(SCMP) No end in sight for martial law in Henan riot villages. By Shi Ting. November 4, 2004.
Two Henan villages where violent clashes between Han Chinese and minority Hui Muslim residents left at least seven dead and dozens injured last week were still under martial law yesterday.
Local public security officials remained tight-lipped about the situation in the villages of Nanren and Nanweitan, but residents confirmed that armed police and soldiers remained on the streets.
"In the past four or five days you could see soldiers pretty much everywhere on the streets," said a Hui Muslim from Nanren. "Whenever you step out, you see a man in uniform."
A riot between the Han and Hui communities broke out in Zhongmou county, Zhengzhou , last Wednesday and raged for five days before local security authorities moved in to calm the situation. A Han Chinese and a Hui Muslim were involved in a traffic dispute, which led to a fight involving as many as 500 residents from the two villages.
Most of the villagers injured had recovered and been sent home, a local hospital staff member said.
The Foreign Ministry has sought to play down tension between the Han majority and minority groups. Spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said it was an individual case, "which should not be exaggerated into an ethnic problem".
(New York Times) Ethnic Clashes Are Confirmed by Beijing; Toll Is Unclear. By Joseph Kahn. November 2, 2004.
Riots in the central Chinese province of Henan resulted in 7 deaths and 42 injuries and were quelled after authorities imposed martial law, the New China News Agency said Monday, offering the first official bulletin on unrest that began late last week.
The brief dispatch did not describe the reasons for the riots, which local residents said involved sustained clashes between Hui Muslims and Han Chinese after a traffic accident. It gave a much lower death toll than some residents reported.
One person told about an internal account of the riots, prepared for higher authorities in Beijing, that said the police had counted 148 deaths, including 18 police officers. Western news agencies reported varying death tolls, quoting local residents as saying that as many as 30 people were killed.
The police prevented access to the county of Zhengmou, situated between Kaifeng and Zhengzhou in Henan Province, where much of the violence occurred. Reporters and photographers entering the area were detained and expelled. It was difficult to reach residents because phone connections appeared to have been blocked.
The incident is the latest challenge for the authorities in a society that has become markedly prone to social unrest. A growing wealth gap and persistent corruption and backwardness in rural areas have fueled riots in the countryside and in secondary cities. Large-scale demonstrations, some violent, are no longer rare.
Ethnic violence is less common. Hui Muslims, one of the country's 56 official ethnic groups, trace their origins to Central Asia. But they resemble Han Chinese, who make up about 90 percent of the population, and are considered well integrated into Chinese society.
The details of the Henan incident remain sketchy and the number of casualties is in dispute. But it appears to have been one of the largest and most sustained ethnic clashes in many years.
The violence erupted Friday after a traffic dispute pitted mostly Han residents of one village against Hui Muslims from a neighboring village. Local residents said tempers first flared after a Hui taxi driver ran over and killed a young Han girl.
Relatives and fellow villagers of the girl descended on the Hui village to demand compensation. Fighting erupted, and scores of local peasants took up farm implements to battle one another.
As word of the confrontation spread, Han and Hui in adjoining areas joined the fray. Several reports said as many as 500 people were involved in fighting over the weekend.
Officers from the paramilitary People's Armed Police were deployed in the region and put it under martial law. Residents estimated that thousands of police officers had been deployed. The New China News Agency did not specify the number of police officers involved.
A related incident may have occurred in neighboring Qi County when the police intercepted a convoy of vehicles carrying other Hui Muslims to the area. Estimates by local residents of the number of outsiders trying to join the fray were as high as several hundred. Residents described to Western news agencies a violent standoff between the Hui outsiders and police officers who stopped the convoy, with some additional deaths.
An imam at a mosque inside the barricaded zone, who spoke by mobile phone, said that order had been restored but that Hui residents feared that local Han planned to continue fighting.
"The battles were intense and broke out in several places," the man said. "I know of several people who died in my village and of about 10 people in another village."
The most recent clash between Hui and other Chinese occurred in 2002, when a struggle broke out between Hui and Tibetans in western Qinghai Province. A large number of injuries were reported, but like many such incidents the matter was ignored or played down by the state-controlled media.
(BBC News) China's minority fears. By Tim Luard. November 4, 2004.
China's biggest known outbreak of ethnic violence in recent memory has re-awoken some of its communist leadership's worst fears. Five days of pitched battles between thousands of Hui Muslims and Han Chinese villagers in Henan province left at least seven people dead, the latest in a series of large-scale confrontations that have come to light in recent weeks.
Adding race and religion to an already explosive mixture of economic and social grievances, the Henan violence was also a stark reminder of the potential for chaos and fragmentation underlying China's seemingly unstoppable economic rise.
Relations between the majority Han community, who make up 93% of the population, and as many as 55 officially listed "national minorities" have always been sensitive.
For the ruling Communist Party, they are a potential source of danger to social stability, national unity and ultimately the very existence of the regime.
Often hidden in the past, these tensions are now bubbling to the surface, exacerbated by new problems associated with economic growth, such as the country's widening wealth gap and increased competition for scarce resources.
"China is a very fractured and complex place and these are the kinds of local conflicts that can easily erupt into region-wide conflagrations," said Dru Gladney, Professor of Asian Studies and Anthropology at the University of Hawaii.
The Chinese government played down the ethnic dimension of last week's clashes, saying it was a problem "between villages", and was of no interest to foreigners.
"China is a country with many minorities," a foreign ministry spokeswoman said, "but we have a healthy and good policy towards them."
But what was particularly interesting about the latest incident was that it occurred right in the heart of China, Mr Gladney said.
Most of the country's ethnic groups live in the huge, resource-rich but sparsely populated border regions like Tibet and Xinjiang.
The only exposure many Chinese have had to them in the past has been in the official media's carefully-posed pictures of exotically dressed tribal people attending the annual meeting of the National People's Congress in Beijing.
But the economic and social reforms of recent years have changed the whole context of ethnic relations, according to Peter Ferdinand, an East Asia specialist at Warwick University.
The reforms have included a major loosening of controls on people's movements, leading to the creation of a 200 million-strong army of migrant workers.
"The migrant worker issue means that what used to be a local issue has now become a national one," Dr Ferdinand said.
As well as sending delegates to China's rubber-stamp parliament, minority groups in many areas are offered preferential treatment in the form of less restrictive birth control policies and easier access to university and employment.
But decentralisation means a lessening of Beijing's power to ensure these rights are honoured.
This has allowed provincial authorities to treat minorities less well than they used to, Dr Ferdinand said.
These privileges, originally designed to ensure compliance with Chinese rule, also cause resentment among ordinary Han Chinese.
An angry contributor to a Chinese website recently complained that police in the southern city of Shenzhen were afraid to arrest pickpockets belonging to the Uighur national group from Xinjiang - who look and sound more Turkish than Chinese - because it could cause "political trouble".
Ethnic minorities are often the victims of deep-seated prejudice, according to Wils Cheng, a student in Sweden of Chinese birth.
"There is a Uighur student here in my university, and she regards herself as East Turkish rather than Chinese. When I talked to other Chinese students about her, they expressed hostility and contempt towards her," he said.
Han Chinese generally associate racial diversity with chaos, he explained.
"Han is basically synonymous with unity and national integrity, while non-Han is automatically associated with barbarianism and a threat to China's territorial integrity," he said.
Another recent problem is that indigenous groups are increasingly being marginalised by Han migration.
This is especially the case in areas such as Tibet and Xinjiang, where religious and racial tensions are highest and Chinese troops guard constantly against separatist activities. Minorities are obliged to learn Chinese if they want better jobs, and are invariably shut out of positions of real power.
The central government's biggest fear is that these restive regions could tear away at the country's edges, much as the former Soviet Union was sundered apart, and as imperial China was divided in the past.
The People's Republic of China has been called the world's "last great multiethnic empire", raising questions about whether it will follow the Soviet example.
But the Han Chinese do have the advantage of being much more dominant in terms of overall numbers than were the Russians. And China's minorities are thinly scattered over a very wide area.
Unity and strength also become increasingly important as China grows more assertive about its position in the world.
"Increasing Chinese nationalism is unlikely to encourage a more generous policy towards whingeing minorities," said Warwick University's Dr Ferdinand.
(Boxun) November 3, 2004.
(Translation) A violent clash between Han and Hui people broke out in Zhongmou County, Henan Province, China, causing deaths and injuriies. Chinese authorities imposed a news blackout by invoking military procedures and tried to cover up this ethnic conflict.
A certain Mr. A (his name is suppressed for his personal safety) went to Zhongmou on November 2 to understand the situation in person. This is our interview with him.
A: The blockade is very intense right now. We are not able to get in as yet. Many roads are sealed off. The local people are afraid and unwilling to speak because they are worried about possible revenge afterwards. This problem is not as simple as reported, because this thing has existed for a long time. The Hui people are very powerful in this area, and there were incidents of physical assault, vandalism and robbery. The local government has done nothing about it.
Reporter: What is the situation right now?
A: The city looks very peaceful. But we cannot go to the point where the disturbance occurred. There are armed policement everywhere.
Reporter: Are they fully armed?
A: Yes, almost everyone.
Later, we connected with Mr. A again and he told us with his husky voice:
A: I was able to get there, even though the armed police was still preventing entry. The Hui people there are very though. I had been to a village which was attacked by the Hui people on March 1st, this year. This was not a large village, with only about one hundred families. It looked horrible afterwards. The Hui people came to assault, vandalize and rob. All the houses, the vehicles, the television sets and household consumer electronic goods were vandalized. One person in this village had a conflict with the Hui people and they came and attacked the entire village. It was frightening. When I got there, all the windows were broken. If only you could see the photos, you would realize how terrible it was. Such incidents occur frequently there, and it is not peaceful. The local government does not want to mind these matters, and this makes the people very angry. It seems that even the local government is afraid of the Hui people. I understand that even the Public Security Bureau director of Zhongmou County, Zhengzhou City was assaulted by the Hui people. I heard that the Henan provincial governor Li Cheungyu is going to be relieved of his post. This is what I heard, but I don't know if this information is reliable. This is what the local people are saying.
Reporter: How many people died?
A: I am not sure. Some say several, some say dozens and others say more than one hundred. There is no accurate figure. The village is under lockdown -- nobody enters and nobody leaves. The armed policemen guard all the road entrances. This village is about 20 square kilometers in size. It took us more than 20 minutes to circle it.
Our reporter also interviewed someone at the Zhongmou County People's Hospital in person.
Reporter: How many injured people from the Zhongmou County were admitted into your hospital?
Hospital: I don't know that.
Reporter: I heard that all the injured people were sent to your hospital?
Hospital: I am not sure. I don't know. I just arrived here.
Reporter: Is there anyone here who knows? Can anyone tell us something?
Hospital: I don't know.
Our reporter called the Zhongmou Hospital as well.
Reporter: The newspapers say that the clash was very serious. Have things calmed down now? How many injured are at your hospital?
Hospital: Some were sent here in the beginning. But they have been transferred to Zhengzhou and Kaifeng later.
Reporter: Why were they sent farther away?
Hospital: This was decided by the leadership.
Reporter: Was this because there were too many injured? Were they sent elsewhere because they couldn't received treatment?
Hospital: (Laughs) I don't know about that.
Reporter: I saw that the newspapers are saying that the Hui people from other cities and provinces are heading towards here. Are there any movements?
Hospital: We cannot see those reports here, so I don't know. I have not seen the actual location.
Reporter: How far away from you is the location of the incident? Will the fight spill over to your location?
Hospital: They are about 40 to 50 miles away. They are on the bank of the Yellow River. It is very far away. It is a village.
Reporter: Are people talking about it? I heard that the Hui people there are very rough.
Hospital: It does not affect us much. It is not appropriate to criticize this business.
The reporter contacted an agricultural products company. The person on the telephone asked the reporter about his ethnicity. The reporter said, "I am a Han" and then the other party decided to speak to him.
Reporter: The newspaper said that 148 people died.
Interviewee: No. Not that many. Some time ago, more than 140 people died in the coal mine in Henan province. There were not that many dead here. About a dozen or so.
Reporter: Why did the conflict occur?
Interviewee: Two junior high school student were beaten to death by the Hui people. These Hui people are barbarians. They are barbarians everywhere in the country. There are two counties here in which everyone is Hui. They all came out to take part.
Reporter: How many people participated?
Interviewee: Damn! There were more than 10,000 people.
Reporter: That many people!
Interviewee: There are more Han people than Hui people now. But the Hui people are united. Everything is under control right now.
Reporter: How are things under control?
Interviewee: The troops have taken over.
Reporter: Where did the troops come from?
Interviewee: All the armed police in Henan province and the infantry. There are several tens of thousands of troops. People from both sides are being arrested.
Reporter: What are so many troops needed?
Interviewee: Only the troops can solve the problem. The public security people are out of it. They are suppressing now.
Reporter: Suppressing? Are they arresting people?
Interviewee: Arresting, arresting, arresting.
Reporter: How many people were arrested?
Interviewee: I am not sure. The vice-governor of Henan province is Li Chengyu. He is a Hui person. (Editor's note: Li is actually the governor).
Reporter: Oh, then he should come out quickly to solve the problem.
Interviewee: Solve what? A couple of months ago, there was a Han-Hui fight and the government took the side of the Hui people. The hotels operated by Hans were destroyed by the Hui. The county reported losses totalling a hundred to two hundred thousand yuan although the actual damages far exceeded that amount. I heard that one hotel was even targeted by mistake.
Reporter: What was the government's attitude?
Interviewee: Everywhere in the country, the government takes care of the Hui people. Look at the courts. When Hui people commit crimes, they don't get the death penalty; when Han people commit crimes, they get death penalties.
Reporter: So everything is under military control. Are the police involved?
Interviewee: The police are useless. They can't do anything here. They don't have guns. Even if they do, they won't dare to shoot without orders. Right now, people can't enter or leave there. The Hui people are coming in from the rest of Henan and the rest of the county, but they were all turned back. If the army weren't here, things would be worse and the people might have started a war.
Reporter: When I was young, I saw the movie titled <<The Hui Squadron>> about the anti-Japanese campaign led by Ma Bunmin. The Hui people are tough.
Interviewee: Yes. They are also tough this time. The Hui people came armed with picks, pitchforks and hooks. They used everything that they had. More than a hundred people got injured. The two Han hospitals and the one Hui hospitals are full of injured people.
(Time Asia) Henan's Ethnic Tensions. By Hannah Beech. November 15, 2004.
(Boston Globe) Violent ethnic clashes plague China. By Jehangir S. Pocha. December 19, 2004.
Nanbei street, a ragged strip of asphalt not far from the south bank of the Yellow River, used to be the embodiment of China's racial harmony. Each day, the Muslim call to prayer from Nanren village, populated with the Hui descendants of Silk Road traders, mixed in with the calls to commerce from the vegetable market in the neighboring Weitang village, inhabited by China's Han majority. As testament to its ethnic tolerance, Nanbei Street is lined with fresh-meat stands catering equally to the dietary preferences of the Han and the Hui. Last week, though, after a traffic dispute between villagers from Nanren and Weitang spiraled out of control, Nanbei Street's daily butchering turned from goats and pigs to humans.
Mobs from both sides, armed with farmers' tools, spears and Molotov cocktails, transformed the once placid villages of Zhongmou county in China's central Henan province into an ethnic war zone more reminiscent of Gujarat or Aceh. Four days later, on Oct. 31, when order was finally restored by more than 10,000 People's Armed Police and other military personnel, 148 people were dead, according to local journalists who saw an internal document circulated among high-level bureaucrats in Henanmaking this China's worst ethnic strife in years. "In all my life and that of my ancestors, we've never experienced anything like this," says a Muslim surnamed Hai, who along with other villagers discovered a decapitated Hui corpse on Monday. "Our villages will never be the same," agrees a Han farmer surnamed Geng, who says two of his fellow Weitang residents were thrown alive into a fiery brick kiln by Hui marauders. "Now we will always live in fear."
China has quietly celebrated the peaceful coexistence of its 55 ethnic minorities and the majority Han. True, discontent simmers in the provinces of Tibet and Xinjiang, where Buddhists and Muslims have clamored for independence, and various other Chinese minorities claim they are held back economically by the Han. But ethnic tensions in China seldom turn violent. Especially well assimilated is China's largest Muslim minority, the Hui, who number some 10 million and are scattered throughout the country. After centuries of intermarriage between Han and Muslim merchant families, the Hui, who first came to China in the 7th century, are largely indistinguishable physically from the Han, except for the occasional skullcap or veil. Unlike the Uighurs of Xinjiang, whose separatist cause has spooked Beijing, the Hui are not prevented from overt Muslim worship; many of Henan's Hui villages have two flourishing mosques.
Yet China has not been immune from the tensions that have roiled the world in the past three years. Many moderate Muslim Hui say they have been discriminated against because of their religionand there are some worries that marginalizing the Hui could radicalize them in the same way that previously apolitical Muslims have been radicalized elsewhere in the world. "The terrorists from the Middle East are the same race as the Hui," says Han farmer Geng (though they are not). "Their character is cruel and aggressive."
In the light of such sentiment, the Imam for the Nanren West Mosque, surnamed Li, says relations between the Hui and the Han have reached their lowest point in his lifetime. "Even though we have no connection with terrorists, the Han now have prejudices against us that come from negative international ideas about Muslims," he says. Five days into the martial law that was declared in Zhongmou county, only the Hui were still prevented from leaving their villages, even though the Han also participated in the violence. At roadblocks across the county, police scanned cars looking for people wearing Muslim headgear, and long-distance buses driven by Hui were turned away, says one Public Security Bureau official from nearby Kaifeng city, for fear that the Muslims would band together and attack the Han.
Beijing appears to be trying hard not to let ethnic turmoil metastasize. The Chinese press did not report news of the clashes until Monday evening, when a brief item was first released only on the English-language news wire of the official Xinhua News Agency. No mention was made that the conflict was between the Hui and the Han. And in contrast with the internal document circulated to Henan officials, the Xinhua article gave a death toll of only seven. The news black-out may have had as much to do with Beijing's fear of social disorder snowballing into more widespread unrest as with ending ethnic tensions. Just in the past week, protests by thousands of disenfranchised farmers and others have unsettled the provinces of Anhui, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan and Zhejiang. Referring to the recent spate of unrest, national Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang was quoted in the official media on Monday pleading for calm. After last week's ethnic strife, calm is precisely what China's leaders need.
The silence in this dusty brick-making town seems idyllic. But the quiet is really the calm after a storm -- one that residents fear will soon return.
Nearly two months after deadly riots pitted ethnic Hans against Hui Muslims, both communities around this village in central Henan Province and elsewhere continue to seethe. The clashes brought into sharp relief the deteriorating relations between China's Han majority and its 55 ethnic and religious minorities, which include Tibetans, Mongolians, Koreans, and several Muslim groups.
In a broader sense, the riots also reflected the bitterness, prejudice, and anger grinding away at China's steadily fraying social fabric. ''Everyone here's gone mad. People who used to live together now want to kill each other," said a local restaurant owner who would give his name only as Ma. ''I'm worried that when the police leave, the fighting will start again."
On Oct. 28, the village of about 1,500 Han and 500 Hui exploded into violence after an altercation of differing origins. Ma, a Hui, said the clashes broke out after a Hui man was mugged by Han locals. Han Chinese in the area say the man was beaten after he knocked down a Han girl with his vehicle and refused to pay compensation.
Fierce fighting between the two communities raged for hours, said residents who put the toll at more than a hundred dead -- including at least 15 police officers -- and more than 400 injured. Other reports have estimated a death toll as low as seven, and there was no way to confirm the actual figure.
Because of the proliferation of cellphones and computers even in rural China, word of the riot spread quickly in the region, threatening to draw thousands more into the frenzy.
In Ji Yuan, about 80 miles west of Nan Ren, ''thousands of Hui people were getting into trucks to go join the fight," said Yuan Peng, a Hui man in Ji Yuan. Rumors also spread about a planeload of Huis flying in from the northwest region of Ningxia, an officially designated Hui autonomous area, where about 2 million of China's 8.2 million Huis live.
Authorities moved quickly to quell the violence, even deploying paramilitary troops, residents said. Now, surveillance vans still patrol the area around Nan Ren, and a large blue sign assures locals that a police detachment is working to ease tensions.
That's the most public concession that anything is amiss here, as Chinese media have given scant coverage to the riots. Journalists who have tried to enter the area have been detained.
With the area isolated from the outside and the government seen to be sweeping things under the carpet, members of both the Han and Hui communities see a growing divide between the two groups that is hardening old perceptions and stereotypes.
''We're good Muslims, but the Han people don't understand us," said Yuan Zong Qing, a truck driver in Ji Yuan. ''Our children cannot learn the Koran in school, and it's hard for them to even observe Ramadan. Some [Han Chinese] offer us pork and intimidate us and pressure us to keep Chinese names." Yuan prefers to call himself by his Arab name, Mohammad Dawood.
In Zhong Mou, another Henan town where a Hui-Han riot was reported this summer, a Han carpenter named Wang Tong Bin said he's ''always hated" the Hui because they're ''arrogant, aggressive and clannish. They have this group mentality, so if one Han person offends a Hui person, a lot of Hui will collect to take revenge," he said.
The Nan Ren riots have taken Han-Hui relations in the town to a new low, said Wang Chao, a retired Han mill worker in the town.
''The city hasn't recovered yet," he said from the backseat of his car, the only place he would agree to speak. ''Just look around you. All the Hui restaurants are empty because people aren't supporting their businesses."
Such unrest is rooted in an increasing alienation among people who feel sidelined by the government's single-minded pursuit of economic growth and the resultant increase in inequality, autocracy, and corruption. The government has long tried to mollify its potentially restive minorities such as the Hui with job preferences and other affirmative action programs. But with unemployment rising, particularly in the rural central and western provinces, resentment about this is increasing among the Han.
Hui men, in turn, often complain that they and other Muslim minorities have few ''real jobs" and are limited to owning restaurants on a street of other minority-owned businesses. But there is no doubt the Hui now enjoy far more religious freedom than they did in the first decades of Communist rule, when the party repressed practice of all faiths.
''People now come in droves to pray five times a day, and we are even getting new converts," said Lu Da Zhe An, a cleric at the newly built Arabian-style mosque in Shui Yun, a Hui village not far from Nan Ren.
This relatively greater religious freedom is also heightening differences between Han and Hui, said Mai Bao Guang, a butcher in Shui Yun. He, like many Hui, has recently taken to wearing a beard and an Arabic-style white prayer hat. Such increased devoutness and the Huis' tendency to congregate in and around mosques have made them appear clannish to many Han Chinese, Mai said.
The Henan tension is simmering amid an increase in civil unrest across China. Nearly 60,000 protests and agitations -- over issues such as unpaid pensions and private property seized by the government -- were reported around the country last year more than five times the number of a decade ago, the government said. Given local governments' reticence in reporting such information, the real number could well be higher.
Alarmed, party elders have responded to the rising social tensions by directing officials to be more responsive and considerate in their governance. But Chinese and foreign political analysts in Beijing say that's not enough.
Since the government has only recently withdrawn from many spheres of public life, Chinese society has not learned how to manage competing social interests, the analysts say. Hence the grass-roots mechanisms that open societies rely on to sort out similar ethnic or social tensions must be given time and support to develop, said Chen Xin, a professor of sociology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
From the back of his car Wang, the retired mill worker, said his life seems to be spinning outside the government's, and his, control. ''I have a Hui friend, and we used to eat and go out together," he said. ''Now, I'm not sure if I can. I don't want things to change, but I can't help it if they do."