Citizen Reporters On The Huankantou/Huaxi Incident

In the matter of the Huankantou/Huaxi incident, I had two previous posts.  The post A New Chinese Tourist Mecca was an eyewitness account by a visitor a few days after the incident.  The post Q&A about Huaxi/Huankantou is a collection of various pieces about the background as well as the event itself.  This current post collects a number of Chinese Internet forum comments (via Boxun) translated into English.  As such, you are reminded that there is no guarantee on accuracy, but this is an example of citizen reporters taking over when the mainstream media are missing in action.

The event took place on early April 10, and these posts occurred between April 12 and April 13.  Thereafter, all Internet posts on the subject were deleted by the Internet Nanny.  So this was a brief window of opportunity in which free exchange of information was permitted to occur.  These posts are also interesting because they illustrate the interaction between government and citizenry in Undercover Internet Commentators on the Chinese Internet.  Among the commentators were a couple of people who were present at the scene from the government side.  You can read this fascinating exchange among the people, including both their perspectives as well as the tone and style of interaction.  But just as we were getting both sides of the story, the rhetorical devices got in the way and communication was broken off.  If the conversation had continued, there might have been a collaborative effort to ferret out whether two elderly ladies were really killed (note: some local person must know their names), why a government worker got the tendons in his legs severed with knives by the rioters in the customary manner of Chinese triad gangs (note: some local person must have seen it), and other details.

Like it or not, this was better than hearing from the government only through official press releases on one side and the citizens trying to outdo each other in bashing the government on the other side.  In this case, the government workers were not the type who hoist the red flag high and sing praises of the leadership.  I just wished the dialogue could have continued further along.

Eyewitness [4s4s4s4s123@sohu], April 12, 2005, 22:00.

Let me explain what happened on April 10th in detail.

At around 1am on April 10, I received a telephone call to assemble at 3am for an emergency meeting (it was Sunday, and I really didn't want to go).  At 4am, we assembled in front of the municipal government building and we boarded vehicles.  Each vehicle had a number.  If my memory serves me right, the last bus should be number 50.

At 430am, the vehicles entered the village.  At around 5am, the militia set up a security cordon outside the bamboo sheds, and the workers from the various units (several dozens of them came from the Women's League; they were women, and some of them were more than 50 years old) entered the bamboo sheds to persuade the elders to leave.  After those people left, the workers from the municipal government began to dismantle the sheds.

At 530am, the dismantled material were loaded onto the vehicles, and the workers were ready to leave the scene.  By this time, more and more spectators had shown up.  There was a clash between the crowd and the police who were maintaining order on the road, and there were isolated instances of rock throwing at the police and the workers.  The police and the militia used their bodies to erect a human wall, and the workers entered successfully into the school.  During the clash, a small young man wearing glasses was dragged by the police into the group of workers.  He was probably one of the more 'excited' local people, but the police did not do anything to him because they probably did not have time to worry about him.

When was it?  I forgot.  At the school sports field, we can hear waves and waves of shouting from the outside.  I went up to the third floor of the classroom building.  Heavens!  There were a lot of people outside (actually, this was just the start and many more people would be coming).  Two ambulances, a medium-sized bus and two lorries parked on the outside of the school were ready to leave.  At the time, they had thought about there might be injured workers or people who cannot be persuaded to leave, so that was why they were parked outside.

When was it?  I forgot.  When the five vehicles got to the peasant houses nearest to the bamboo sheds, the crowd's roar got louder and then bricks and rocks were thrown at the vehicles like a hailstorm.  The sounds of the screaming bricks (in Dongyang, the locals are famous for throwing rocks; not only can they throw far, but they can actually throw with sound), the windows breaking and the people yelling were loud.  The ambulance from the People's Hospital was in the front, followed by the ambulance from the Chinese Medicine Hospital next, then the bus and the lorries.

When was it?  I did not have time to look at my watch!  The anti-riot police (actually, they were just formed from the ordinary police) was forced to fire off tear-gas canisters.  A total of five canisters were released.  I can see that clearly.  (To the forum master, here I have to ask you, Do you know why they used only five canisters?  And then they did not use any more even when the situation got out of control!?  Let me tell you, the Public Security Bureau instructed their people very clearly before setting out -- if the people scream and curse you, you must not respond; if the people assault you, you must not hit back.  Thus, they never expected the locals to be like this!  Therefore, they only used five canisters, and even those five canisters had been borrowed.  The batons and shields of the several dozens of anti-riot police were in fact the only weapons of self-defense for the more than 2,000 government workers).  At that time, the crowds dispersed quickly.  Some bold ones continued to throw rocks at the militia, and one person was arrested by the police.  At that time, the vehicles were able to get through.  During the process, there were some elders who tried to stop the vehicles, but a police station director persuaded them to make way.  (I don't want to give the details of the names, because I don't want to cause them or me any problems.  Please pardon).

As for what happened next, it was something that nobody wanted to see!  To tell the truth, if was not so much shocking as terrifying.  It let me see how "human qualities were trampled"!!!

11678 [110011678_2002@sohu], April 12, 2005, 22:23

Let me tell you what you people did.  Why were people throwing rocks?  Because your vehicles rolled over elderly ladies and then you fired off tear gas canisters.  That was why the people started to throw rocks.  When you people were loading the vehicles, an innocent person was assaulted by your people and was seriously injured.  Why won't you say so?  That was the paper factory boss near the small bridge, and he only came out to retrieve his dog.  Is this not the truth?  Would you care to say that this was not the truth?

Eyewitness [4s4s4s4s123@sohu], April 12, 2005, 22:28.

My mobile phone suddenly went off.  A colleague who came with me told me not to watch anymore, but to come downstairs and get on the bus immediately.  (At the time, I was so glad that I was not on one of those five vehicles.  But the latter developments would show me how pitifully wrong I was).  When I got on the bus, I told my colleagues about what I saw before.  Then we heard the loud yelling from the school entrance, because the local villagers have begun to attack the school (afterwards, I found out that they were spreading rumors that the vehicles had killed some people).  The anti-riot police stopped them repeatedly and then they also rushed outside (even now, I don't understand why they wanted to rush outside).  The anti-riot police were able to break out, but the ordinary police behind them could not get out.  Therefore, the job of defending the entrance fell to them (because the anti-riot police did not come back).  At that time, some injured personnel retreated towards the sports field in the school.  Our group felt that the matter was taking a serious turn, and we got off the bus and retreated towards the classroom building.  The developments would prove that our decision was correct.

Angry Fish [far17@sohu], April 12, 2005, 22:46.

The preceding is the "official version" that is closest to the truth.  But if one has to use the "official tone" to speak to you, one might ask: "Can you produce the evidence for your version?"  It is doubtful that you can produce that, because nobody thought that this matter would turn out this way, and even the Huaxi villagers did not think that it would turn out this way either.

On other points, there was a number 51 on a medium-sized bus parked on the road.  As for your persuading the people to leave in order to take down the bamboo sheds, I think that your people worked too hard.  There was an elderly lady whom you put on a bus and then she wanted to ram her head against the rail to commit suicide.  I wonder how you persuade her to come out?

As for the clash near the peasant houses, it did not seem right.  Someone was injured by you people in front of the paper factory.  The few tear gas canisters did not matter.  It was less than one hundred meters from the first peasant house to the road intersection, and basically there were no crowds after that.

The anti-riot police did not appear to be ordinary police.  The events that occurred afterwards were a human tragedy, but I don't know if your people who took part reflected on it?  Why did it turn out this way?  Both sides trampled on each other's human qualities, so please don't use these saddening words.

Angry Fish [far17@sohu], April 12, 2005, 23:09.

Comrade Eyewitness, I want to clarify something with you.  When you said that the forum master had bad intentions, I went back to read what had been posted.  The forum master did not have anything that could be  construed to be subjective speculation.  Basically, the forum master reprinted what the media said about the environmental pollution!  If you think that this is bad intentions, then it actually damages your credibility.  I want to point this out, and if you think someone has bad intentions, you should be more specific.  I think that you are basically a good comrade.

Fine, I am waiting for you to respond.  Furthermore, the timing and the sequence of your events may be in some error, as I was also present at the scene.  But the best way to understand this is to let the people know about what happened.  We hope that more of those present can participate here, so that everyone (including the Huaxi villagers, the government officials, the police personnel and the government workers) can all understand the truth of this event.

Eyewitness [4s4s4s4s123@sohu], April 12, 2005, 22:28.

Do you want proof?  Do you want it?  What is your basis?  Do you dare to get it?  When two policemen who wanted to protect injured government workers were beaten into a pulp, what did you do?  What did you do?  What did you do?  Are they humans?  You want to look at the photos?  Oh!  You want to look at them?  If you are a Dongyang person, you better speak to the facts -- the people who were beaten were Dongyang folks and the people who beat them were also Dongyang folks!  You don't think this is shameful enough?

I would like to speak to you politely, but you people don't seem to have any shame.  I have nothing to say.  Let me say again, the old lady sat at the seat next to the door on the medium-sized bus.  And the people on the bus were the middle-aged women from the Women's League, and the reason why they were there was to look after the elderly people who had been brought onto the bus.  If it were your mother on the bus, would she let an elderly lady commit suicide?  Unless your mother wanted to go to jail!  Did you actually see someone get beaten up in front of the paper factory?  Ha!  The tear gas canisters were supposed to disperse the crowd in the front of the first peasant house!  Did you know which direction the wind was blowing that morning?  Ha!

I even know the name of the comrade who removed the elderly people in front of the bus, so I obviously knew from whom the anti-riot police came!  Ha! 

Since you don't want to let me speak, OK!

Angry Fish [far17@sohu], April 12, 2005, 23:45.

I did not do anything.  I only recorded some facts, and I am reflecting on why so many government workers were injured.  But at the scene, not a single citizen -- please pay attention, not a single citizen said on their behalf: Stop beating them.  I was very saddened, because the government that I trusted has become "worse than the police of the Kuomintang."  I heard that phrase at least three times from elder people and that is why I remembered it.  Besides, I don't have the awful habit of hating any police personnel.

11678 [110011678_2002@sohu], April 12, 2005, 23:54.

Eyewitness, you seemed to be getting emotional.  I came to this forum to let people know about my thoughts and what I saw.  Do you think that everyone is inhumane?  Let me tell you, did you think that the injured people in there got out on their own?  Damn you!!! We got them out.  Have you thought about why things go to this stage?

Angry Fish [far17@sohu], April 12, 2005, 23:58.

On the last bit, I am just one person, and I can only believe what I saw.  The villagers were running amok and they were emotional.  You are just one person, and you can only present what you saw.  But did you think about why they got so worked up?  It is not enough to know the result of something, because it is necessary to figure out the reason why.

As Donyang people, it would seem too parochial to be concerned about saving face as opposed to figuring out the rights and wrongs.  We are just plain folks, and we don't want to worry about the problem of face because we are having a hard enough time staying alive.  As for your tone of speech, I sensed that you must be in the police, because they usually speak like that.  Why don't I have the right to see the proof and the evidence?  Please give me a reason.  The constitution of the People's Republic gave the citizens the right to know.  You withhold the information because you are afraid that Dongyang will lose face, but that it is your tragedy.  All rumors arise because of the lack of direct helpful information.

My anger came from the manner by which the government handled the pollution problems as well as the elderly protesters in their sit-down.  As for the clash, I am sorry for both sides.

Eyewitness [4s4s4s4s123@sohu], April 13, 2005, 00:10

Ha ha ha.  This is laughable!  So a few police men and government workers were saved by the locals and hidden in their homes!  You must be real locals.  Ha ha.  I forgot, even if the locals saved people, they don't dare to admit it because some people will accuse them of being "traitors"!

Those people were beaten to a pulp without sign of life.  What did their assaulters do?  I think the people who were at the scene surely knew!  I won't say anything, because I am a Dongyang person too.

So, please continue chatting.  Just don't remember who you are!

11678 [110011678_2002@sohu], April 13, 2005, 00:14.

We common folks are unable to formulate a conclusion about the rights and wrongs of this case.  It is true that some criminal elements took advantage of the situation, such as robbing the stuff inside the vehicles.  Some are from here and some are from the outside, and I am shamed of them.  The incident was caused by the pollution, and the people could not even grow any vegetables and must therefore buy from the city (that was how it is with my family).  Why did the government attempt to solve this only after it came to this point?  Do the officials care about the livelihood of the people?

yahoo0410 [yahoo-0401@sohu], April 13, 2005, 00:43.

My name is Wang, the Wang as in "Huankantou"!  The entire incident took place about 500 to 600 meters from my house.  On that night, I also heard the sound of the firecrackers (the signals used by the elderly people in the bamboo sheds when they see government workers coming to remove the bamboo sheds) and I witnessed the entire incident.  Afterwards, I monitored what the reactions from everyone.  Of course, I also paid attention to what people on the Internet are saying.  The government has the newspapers and the broadcast channels.  They have the means to speak, because these are their newspapers and broadcast channels!  But I want to hear the voices of the people!  I have seen all sorts of posts on many web sites, big and small.  Originally, I did not want to express my own thoughts, because it is a waste of time since no important official is going to have the spare time to read forum posts and then decide to take action.

But I can't stand it and I must speak out.

It is easy to see what went on, because it is not as if this sort of thing hasn't happened before.  This was a human drama, with all sorts of people -- there are politicians, there are clowns, there are thugs, there are those who gloat, there are those who pound their chests, there are those are scared ... and these days, there are large groups of tourists (most people have never seen so many cars being smashed)!  I want to say -- it is we the common folks who have suffered!

How did things come to this point?  The leaders don't have the time now to clean up the battlefield, so everybody gets to come and see it!  The leaders are busy with other things!  Like sending a fax to Reuters and saying that the truth is something else ... actually it was due to a "small number of people with malicious intent" ... actually ... I am not interested in what happens to these leaders and their political future is something only they care about!   I want to know what we common folks should do?  There are a lot and a lot of people who will be "severely sanctioned" for "opposing" (the government document actually contains these words, and you can verify it for yourself).  And we have to endure the stinking water and the polluted air day and night, we have to watch the bosses pass in front of us in their BMWs and then we receive less than a hundred dollars in compensation money each year (I received 80 yuan this New Year).

Fine, everybody must think that I am going off the track.  So let me tell you what I saw on that day.  Earlier on March 20, the local people heard that a chemical industrial plant was moving here.  Everybody was quite angry, and a number of elderly people began to built the bamboo sheds to obstruct the principal access road to the chemical plant.  Eventually, more and more people took part, so that there were more than a dozen of those sheds.  By early April, the government issued a notice to ask the people to remove the sheds.  Honestly, the government's first notice was quite rational, saying a lot of nice things.  But maybe the people don't believe this sort of talk anymore, or because some city leaders refused to give up, or maybe it is both.  So the government leaders could not wait anymore and they issued the second letter from the town government, including a notice from the public security bureau.  The tone of that letter was scary.  I called that "white terror."  A few days afterwards, on April 10, a major incident accidentally but inevitably occurred.

When I got to the scene, the leader's car had already left.  At the time, the people on the road said that government vehicles rolled over and killed two elderly women; they also said that a civil government vehicle rolled over and killed one  person and then they threw another injured person onto the car to be cremated alive!  My first feeling was that this was extremely unlikely.  When I got to about 300 meters from the bamboo sheds, I saw a topless man who was bleeding in the head running in the field being chased by a dozen peasants, one of whom was holding a stick and hitting the man.  As I went further down to about 50 meters from the school, I saw a young man lying motionless in a pool of blood.  He was dressed in what appeared to be a government worker uniform, and there was a pool of blood behind his head.  I wanted to assist him, but the crowd around him would not let me do that.

My heartbeat rose as I went further ahead.  When I got to the school, I saw that the wall was breached in two spots.  Inside the schoolyard, there were many vehicles of various sizes, some of which had been smashed.  The size of the crowd at the scene was so large as to be impossible to estimate.  I heard that there were still some "police" trapped inside.  After a few minutes, I squeezed my way towards the classrooms.  There were a few people in uniform lying motionless on the ground.  Someone was yelling, "Tong Rong told you to come here to die, and you came here to die!"  I could not endure the angry atmosphere and I withdrew.

That was what I personally saw.  No lies here.  I describe these bloody scene not to let the government off.  I would like to ask the city officials if they should bear some responsibility?  Why did you let some unconnected people who don't know the facts come here to do who knows what?  Did you consider the safety of the people?  If you asked the militia "not to fight back when hit," did you consider the safety of the militia themselves?  Did you think that if you show up with 3,000 people, then the people will be intimidated?  Did you not realize that there was the anger penned up over so many years?  Did you feel that everything can be sacrificed for your own interests?

Perhaps a "small number of persons with malicious intent" were spreading rumors, but this is just a political struggle between you and them.  Why should so many other people play along with you?  Why don't you do it properly, why don't you do it the people's way and why don't you do it in a way that calms the people instead of falling right into the trap of the "persons with malicious intent"?  Sad!  Disgusting!  Detestable!

yahoo0410 [yahoo-0401@sohu], April 13, 2005, 01:24.

To "Eyewitness" and "Real Words Are Precious":

I am a Huaxi person.  I have lived here for many years.  I know more about Huaxi than you do, I know more about the local people and I know even more about the government that you do.

I cannot help but start guessing at your identities.  There are only several types of people here.  One type would be those who are intimately connected with the incident, such as myself.  Another type would be those passed by and made some posts.  And then there is another type which is definitely on the other side of this incident -- such as the two of you.  I think that maybe you are uniformed people who were asked by the leadership to take part in this illegal and unreasonable event, and so I can understand why you would want to complain.  But you should remember that this was not the fault of the common folks, because they were forced into this.  Do you want them to be just like you, being pawns on a chessboard?  If you want to blame someone, you should find those who brought you over there in the first place!  If you are just the usual government workers like the reporters at the Dongyang Daily, then I despise you strongly because you are worst than beasts.

The Third Eye Looks at 123 [zjdy_5678@sohu], April 13, 2005, 09:10.

Based upon I found out last night, the Dongyang municipal government mobilized three ambulances and two morgue hearses in case the workers or the common folks should need them.

This morning, an office colleague told me that her relative is a cadre and many Dongyang City department heads did not want to be used by Secretary Tong Rong and so they either turned off their mobile telephones or found some other excuse not to go.  They did not want to get involved.

lijpsy [lijpsy@sohu], April 13, 14:46.

I send my respects to the comrades who were injured in this incident!  Most of you were encouraged to take part without knowing the truth, and most of you behaved well -- except for a few who wanted to show off in front of the leaders!  I believe that in the handling of such internal conflicts within the people, if the leaders had the courage to show up by themselves to persuade the people on the basis of legal and rational arguments, then the tragedy would not have taken place.  The matter has not ended.  If I were the instigator, I would have killed myself to apologize to all those who were physically and psychologically damaged, including those cadres and militia who broke down and cried afterwards as well as those students who are not able to attend classes these days.

When the people act as a group, they cannot be ignored or under-estimated!  The leaders should not think that they can be mistreated, because even their tolerance has limits.  The Dongyang leadership should think about whether they ought to feel guilty over this matter.  Imagine that your home is in Huankantou and you have no means to redress your pollution problems, would you not feel that justice does not exist in the world?

Comrades, let me make you a suggestion!  Locking down the media is not the solution.  You ought to resolve the matter as quickly as possible, and you must publicly and honestly tell the public about the situation.  You should tell all the media about the objective truth, you must bring all the leaders who were involved in criminal activities to justice, and you must stop operations in all those factories which exceed pollution standards.  At the same time, you must also punish those people who used the opportunity to create chaos -- but not including those people who took part because they genuinely thought that they were fighting for their interests.  Otherwise, the event will get more distorted as it gets relayed and you are going to look worse and worse off.  You should not think that after blocking the other media, your own Dongyang Daily will help you -- after a few days, you may be the only people left reading it.

Please believe that most of the villagers are good people, and there are not too many people who took part without knowing what was going on.  The anger of the people showed one thing -- there is no hatred that came about for no reason!  Think about this and shouldn't this simple fact be understood by the graduates of the communist party school?

I hope that this matter does not end with April 10.  I will pray for all those who have an interest in this matter, including the leader who issued the order!

huashui050410 [huashui050410@sohu], April 13, 16:02.

Today is the third day after the Huaxi incident.  Due to the information blockade, various visitors have come from all directions to see what is going on.  All traffic into Huaxi has been blocked off by traffic police.  Is the government getting nervous or what!?  Why are all the web sites deleting the related posts?  This is extremely infuriating!