The Chizhou Incident
The following is a report of a riot in the city of Chizhou (Anhui province) on June 26, 2005. This event is well-documented because it took place in a medium-sized city beginning in the middle of the day. It was not a flash event because it built up gradually to a crescendo. Let me begin with the pictures that were posted around the Internet.
Here is the consolidated report from Apple Daily (Taiwan) and Chizhou Daily via Sina.com:
According to Chizhou Daily, on the afternoon of July 26 around 240pm, a secondary school student named Liu Liang was riding his bicycle home after just finishing his exam. At an intersection, Liu collided with the Toyota sedan of the owner of Yanhuo hospital. The car sustained some paint scratch while Liu Liang was injured in a fall.
At the time, Liu requested the hospital owner to take him to the hospital for examination and the two sides gotten into an argument. The passengers in the sedan got out and assaulted Liu Liang. A group of motorcycle taxi drivers nearby stepped up to intercede.
During the ensuing arguments, both sides got more heated and excited until things got out of control. The hospital owner even told his companions: "Hit them! If you kill one of them, it will only 300,000 plus yuan!" So the two sides started fighting, and even with knives. The friends of the hospital owner injured a few of the motorcyclists as well as Liu Liang.
At that time, someone called 110 (the telephone number for the police) and police officers arrived at the scene. Liu Liang was immediately sent to Chizhou Number One People's Hospital for treatment. The participants in the fight were taken down to the police station for investigation.
Friends of both sides of the fight went down and stood outside the police station between 4pm and 6pm. Rumors began to fly around the crowd. First, someone said that the hospital owner has used his influence to go free. Next, someone said that the student Liu Liang had died from his injuries. None of that is true as the perpetrators are still in custody and Liu Liang has been interviewed in a hospital with internal bleeding, but the crowd on the street did not know any better. At 6pm, the motorcycle taxi drivers went berserk and smashed the Toyota sedan as well as a police car parked in front of the police station. Meanwhile, the scene had attracted more than 10,000 spectators.
At 7pm in the evening, some of the crowd blockaded the police station and set fire to two more police vehicles. They also set off firecrackers to cause more chaos. The armed police officers could not control the situation because there were too many people, and the crowd attacked them with rocks, causing six injuries. The fire engines sent to fight the fire were stopped by the crowd. At 725pm, the electricity to the police station was cut off and the rioters threw firecrackers inside. At 725pm, a loudspeaker truck and a police care was also set on fire. By 11pm, there were still more than 2,000 people at the scene. At 1140pm, more than 700 police officers rushed to the scene and arrested a number of rioters.
Why did it take until 1140pm before the police responded with full force? The command structure was the decision-making bottleneck. A timeline can be constructed from the above report. It should be clear to the people inside the police station that there was a crowd outside that was not dissipating. When there are 10,000 people outside, the police station certainly did not have the manpower to cope. Even the city of Chizhou did not have the authority or resources to cope. Instead, the information had to be filtered upstream until it reached the mayor at 6pm, and he then requested the provincial public security bureau to bring in emergency reinforcements. The deputy provincial governor took personal charge at 9pm and ordered plans to be drawn. The provincial public security bureau director arrived personally at 11pm, heard a brief report and then ordered the plans to be implemented. The police officers arrived at the scene at 1140pm. It was the command structure that prevented immediate response. It is as if they had never planned for a mass riot like this one.
Is this case one of justifiable public rage to which the entire western world must lend their moral support? In the above report, I have omitted the following detail:
At 803pm, some of the crowd attacked the Dong Hua Dong supermarket nearby and began looting. By 11pm, the entire supermarket was picked clean.
Of course, the anonymous commentator at Boxun would add this annotation to the looting: "Note: The owner of the Dong Hua Dong supermarket is connected to the perpetrators!" Let us assume that this is true (and I am actually confident enough to put money down that it is false; see Reuters for a telephone interview with the shop owner), then ask, "Does that make it okay, then?" Sorry, it doesn't. This is not a world that I want to live in after these people topple the Communists.
As always, one cannot trust fully what comes out of the scene immediately. The following report was published several days later and the reporter had all the time to complete the interviews and research. The reporter also attempted to get people to explain just how certain rumors came to be.
(Southern Metropolis News via ChineseNewsNet)
[translation] On the afternoon of June 26 in the city of Chizhou (Anhui province), four people in a car had an argument with pedestrian Liu Liang and injured him in a beating. This was an ordinary traffic accident and dispute. Yet, on that evening, this became a mass incident involving assault, looting and arson with many armed police and militia being injured, four vehicles destroyed, a police station vandalized and a supermarket looted.
Based upon the investigation of this reporter, this incident developed as a result of several factors: untruthful rumors, agitation by illegal elements, inappropriate administrative actions ... of which untruthful rumors played the key role. Actually, many mass incidents have similar features. The June 26 Chizhou incident is like a textbook case. There are lessons to be learned about preventing future incidents of a similar nature.
On June 29, a motorbike taxi driver in Chizhou city said to the reporter, "The boss who gave the order to administer the beating said, 'Beating an Anhui person to death is only going to cost 300,000 yuan.' How can something like that not inflame public passion?" The motorbike taxi driver was speaking about the June 26 incident.
At around 230pm on June 26, a Toyota vehicle with Su-Z license plate collided with a local youth near the entrance to the vegetable market in Chizhou city. Nobody knows for sure how they collided. According to information provided by the Propaganda Department of Chizhou City, the driver was Wu Junxing. There were three other passengers in the vehicle. 23-year-old Wang Ye and 23-year-old Li Haiyan are security guards and 24-year-old Wang Xin is unemployed. The local youth was named Liu Liang. He is 22 years old and is attending a computer school in Hefei (Anhui province) but came home for the summer vacation.
After Wu Junxing collided with Liu Liang, he demanded compensation. Liu asked Wu to take him to the hospital to check for injuries but Wu refused. During the dispute, Liu hit the sidemirror of Wu's car, and he was beaten by the security guards in the vehicle. Reportedly, Wu said, "Beating him to death would only require 300,000 yuan in compensation."
According to an eyewitness, "The little boy was knocked over in front of my store. Two big men then began to punch and kick him. The little boy was tall and skinny, wearing glasses. The big men had short haircuts, they had tatoos on their arms and they wore sharp-pointed shoes. It broke my heart to see that. Ouch, those shoes must have really hurt when the kicks land. The little boy was bleeding in the nose and eyes. The man picked up the little boy's head and told him to call his father to bring money over. As the little boy made the call, his hands were trembling. After he made the call, he just sat on the ground."
"The attackers wanted to leave but they were surrounded by many motorbike drivers. At that time, the little boy's father arrived. The little boy struggled over to the car and tried to use a motorbike chainlock to strike the rear door of the car. But he quickly passed out. By that time, the police had arrived."
In a speech to the Chizhou City cadre leaders on June 27, He Minxu, deputy Anhui Province leader and Chizhou Party Secretary, said: "The police station received a telephone report at 2:41pm. Two police officers on duty and one auxiliary police went to the scene immediately. The citizens identified the attackers and the police indicated for them to get out of the vehicle. But the persons in the car refused to cooperate."
"The police found a taxi and placed the little boy in there to take to the hospital. As soon as the taxi started, the little boy's mother ran along in tears. She got on the taxi and went to the hospital." The eyewitness said.
Afterwards, the police took the Toyota and its passengers to the Jiuhua police station several hundred meters down the street. The citizen spectators also went down and gathered outside the police station.
On June 28, the rental car driver carrying the reporter talked about this incident and said: "The Jiangsu people go too far!" Even by that time, he was still thoroughly convinced that "a secondary school student had been beaten to death."
On June 26 when the incident took place, such rumors deeply riled the spectators.
On the afternoon of June 28, the reporter went to Chizhou People's Office where Liu Liang had been taken. A doctor told this reporter: "Liu Liang's condition is relatively stable. That is to say, he is breathing normally and his heart rate is normal. His injury conditions are: fractures on the nose and upper jaw; torn tissue on the upper lip and left earlobe; multiple injuries all over the body." Yet, at the scene of the incident on June 26, many people believed that he had died in the hospital.
A motorbike driver named Zhu believed that rumor at the time. "On one hand, there was a local secondary school student who had just finished his exams. On the other hand, there was a rich boss from outside, with security guards. It is a big contrast." On June 29, as he reviewed the situation three days ago, he can approximately guess how some of the rumors came into being.
"If the police had handcuffed them immediately and put them into the police car, then nothing would have happened afterwards." Zhu believes that the fact that the police did not use the handcuffs was a detail that aroused the ire of the spectators. "One of the militia police got into the vehicle to take them down to the police station. But as far as the specators can tell, he got into the vehicle and so he was one of them." That was what Zhu thought at the time. "The boss came here to invest. He must have made his rounds to meet the officials when he came here. I guessed that they must have met each other some time ago."
At the entrance of the police station, "the security guards took out their knives in front of the militia, but still the police did not handcuff them."
Zhu thought that it was reasonable not to cuff them immediately. "The police had not figured out the situation yet. But when they brought out the knives, there was no excuse for not handcuffing them." The public security director who arrived later also brought up this matter. Zhu said, "When the director arrived after 330pm, he also said that if the police did not handcuff them after they brought out the knives, then someone will have to be held responsible for the lapse."
More and more spectators gathered around. "It was a mix of people. There is an Internet cafe next door, and so there were some 'social' elements." People also began to start trading gossip. "That happened to be the last day of secondary school exams. Someone said that the little boy who was beaten was a secondary school student who had just finished his exam."
There was also the rumor that the little boy had died. Zhu analyzed it as follows: "Everybody felt that the little kid was only in his teens and he was physically weak in physique. How could he withstand such a beating? Many people saw him bleeding in the nose and ear. It was pathetic. 'I wonder if the little kid died?' Maybe someone really asked such a question. But then once the word got passed around, people started to say that the little kids had been beaten to death. Perhaps it was not intentional, but it is no longer possible to come up with anything definitive. Under that circumstance, chaos followed."
"The people wanted the police to hand over the individuals. But how can the police possibly do that? If these individuals were handed over, the crowd would have killed them." Zhu told the reporter that this caused the spectators to believe that "the police were siding with the businessman and his security guards. We only knew that the car came from Jiangsu and we thought that he was a big boss from Jiangsu."
The situation became increasingly chaotic. According to a local reporter at the scene, there must have been 10,000 people. Very quickly, armed police officers came. "When the armed police officer showed up, people got more agitated. People at the front were watching, but others were throwing bottles, rocks and firecrackers from behind." Because he was worried about getting hit by objects, Zhu went from his position at the front to the second floor of the building across the police station and continued to watch.
"A few people got together and toppled the car." According to the material provided by the Chizhou Propaganda Department, the time should be around 6pm. After the car was toppled, Zhu went home to eat dinner. When he received a telephone call from a friend and returned to the scene, the supermarket had already been looted.
According to the material, around 650pm, the toppled Toyota vehicle was set on fire. Afterwards, people turned their attention to the police car in front of the police station. The reporter watched the video taken by the Chizhou Public Security Bureau and saw people toppling over the car. The car was rolled over to the front of the police station. Some people began to use tools to smash the car windows, fire could be seen inside the car, and the sound of crackling could be heard. In the next video segment, the police station was covered in smoke.
At around 800pm, people began to loot the nearby Hua Tung Hua supermarket. According to Zhu, the reason why people turned their attention to the supermarket was this: "The supermarket sent some mineral water bottles over to the police station. Then someone said that the supermarket boss posted bond for the boss who assaulted the kids and let those people slip away through the back door. That was how people directed their anger to the supermarket. In the way the people were thinking at the time, there were two sides and the supermarket stood on the side of the assaulters."
Meanwhile, the Chizhou City was also trying to defuse the crisis. At 600pm, a command center was set up at the City Public Security Bureau command center under the direction of Chizhou Mayor Xie Dexin. On account of the fact that the Chizhou police was seriously undermanned, they asked the provincial public security office to send emergency reinforcements. The deputy provincial leader and Chizhou City party secretary He Minxu and the provincial pubilc security bureau director Cui Yadong rushed over to Chizhou from Hefei. At 1140pm, more than 700 armed police officers arrived at the scene and gained control of the situation.
Other than the beating death of Liu Liang, there were many other rumors floating around the scene. For example, it was said that the attacker was a Zhejiang businessman who is investing here. According to the investigation by the Chizhou Public Security Bureau, 34-year-old Wu Junxing lives in Yichun City (Heilongjiang) and had a company in Nanjing. In June, he started the Xiehuo Hospital in the city of Anxing close to Chizhou. On that day, because Xiehuo Hospital opened for business in Chizhou, he came with companions to celebrate the grand opening. The attackers Li Haiyan and Wang Ye are both from Songyuan City (Jilin province) and are security guards with Xiehuo Hospital.
Concerning the rumor that the police protected the rich businessman who assaulted people, Chizhou Party Propaganda Department News Director Cao Yefa said, "The militia treated this as an ordinary case of public order from the start. The two security guards were involved in the assault, and so it stands to reason that only those two can be arrested. Nobody imagined that it could lead to such a large-scale incident."
But at the scene, people tended to believe in the rumors. Cao Yefa also pointed out that this incident is related to many other conflicts: "The fact that the relationships between the police and the people and between the party cadres and the people are not good is one reason. It is also related to the increasing wealth inequality. These are not just Chizhou problems, but they occur across the country. Furthermore, another point is that some outsiders beat up a local citizen. And then there are the hoodlums egging everyone on."
Since Chizhou became a city in 1999, it has tried to attract outside investments. The reporter found from the Internet that many government departments have the responsibility of attracting outside businesses and investments. The outside business people come from Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai. According to He Chongwen, "The outside business people have made a great contribution towards developing Chizhou. All the large-scale projects depend on their investments."
But the local citizens have some reservations about the outside business people. One motorbike taxi driver told the reporter: "They all operate in a black box. The government protects them." When asked for specific details and evidence, he said, "How could I know? But if they didn't do that, how can they make so much money?" The big real estate developers in Chizhou are all from the outside. Therefore, there is another saying: "The outsiders make the money and take it elsewhere, causing our housing prices to soar."
He Chongwen thinks that such rumors are unreasonable. "Take a piece of land. If the outside investors don't develop it, will the locals develop it? Or should it left there doing nothing? When the outside business people come, they bring investment money and new creative ideas, and they make this piece of land productive and they pay tax dollars." He Chongwen also believes that these rumors are related to the lack of information.
As to why the motorbike taxi drivers were involved in this clash, there are some people who believed that this is related to the crackdown on motorbike taxis last month. According to Xinan Evening News, between May 25 to May 31, the Chizhou City traffic police, the transportation administration, the municipal administration and the department of commerce concentrated their resources on cracking down on motorbike taxi cabs, giving out warnings and summons in more than 4,500 cases of "illegally operating a motorbike taxi cab", including fines in 1,567 cases.
To consolidate those efforts, the city will have a second wave of actions against the motorbike taxi drivers in order to eliminate them from the transportation market.
But among the dozen or so motorbike taxi drivers that the reporter interviewed, none thought this incident was connected to the crackdown. They insisted that the principal reason was that "the outsiders went too far, and what he said was inflammatory."
He Chongwen believes that this was an accidental event. He has two assessments: "First of all, the instigator was truly an immoral rich man. Second, the public security bureau lacked sensitivity and responsiveness in handling this matter. The rumor was that a secondary school student had been beaten to death. If only someone or the doctor from the hospital could step up, clarify the identity and age of the person and state that the person is not dead and is being treated at the hospital, then the situation would not have escalated to this stage."
By the time of the deadline for this reporter, the victim Liu Liang is still being treated at the Chizhou People's Hospital. The doctor said that Liu Liang can only be fed fluids. According to the information from another reporter who arrived a day ago, the younger cousin of Liu Liang said: "I can't say how serious the injuries are. I only know that my cousin cannot eat regular meals, he cannot walk and he cannot talk."
Wu Junxing and his three companions are presently under arrest and held at the Chizhou City Detention Center. Chizhou City Propaganda Department's Cao Yefa said that the investigation is ongoing and hopes that the case will go to the prosecutor soon. More than a dozen rioters have also been arrested.
The Chizhou City government is trying to go ahead with all the post-event recovery work. The Chizhou City Daily News published a commentator's essay titled "Stability rules over everything."
On June 27, the Chizhou Public Security Bureau issued the "notice to urge all suspected criminals in the June 26 violent incident to surrender themselves." They asked all those who threw rocks, lit firecrackers, attacked the police station, toppled vehicles, set fire to the vehicles, looted merchandise, assaulted police, interfered with public business, made up falsehoods and spread rumors to surrender themselves to within five days.
On June 30, Cao Yefa told the reporters that according to the information he had, nobody has turned themselves in to the public security bureau as yet. However, quite a few people have been returning looted merchandise: "They secretly delivered the stuff to the public security bureau or the supermarket."