The Huananxincheng Story

An incident happened on February 15, 2006 in Guangzhou.  Shortly afterwards, there was a systematic attempt by the immediately affected persons to post the story onto the Internet and keep it going.  This story then drew the attention of many more people and it simply will not die.

Here is the translation of some eyewitness accounts at Tianya Club:

[person #1]

At the residential village of Huananxincheng, Panyu District, Guangzhou city, Guangdong province, there had been many problems between the owners and the management.  As a result, the owners had to organize their own rights organizations to defend their own interests.

All Huananxincheng recognized Li Gang as the leader in rights defense.  On February 12, Li Gang mediated in the beating of two owners by the security guards on February 7.  That drew the ire of the management.

At sometime between 7:10pm and 7:20pm on February 15, 2006, five or six men rang the bell of Li Gang's home to loo for him.  His mother opened the door and the men rushed in.  They assaulted Li Gang with their fists and feet, and then they fled.

At 7:30pm, the neighbors got the news.  The police and other owners came.

At the time, Li Gang said that he could not see, and so he was taken to the hospital.

Several owners went down to the monitoring center to look for the surveillance tapes.  Suddenly, all the videotape recorders for the west gate in the northern district were missing.  The lobby camera had been moved so that it only showed the pillar.  Nothing could be seen in the elevator.

At 930pm, we called to ask how Li Gang was.  We were told that he is in the ICU in critical condition.

[person #2]

At 745pm on February 15, I was ready to go out for a stroll by the river.  As soon as I stepped out, I saw an upstairs neighbor who told me that "Li Gang was beaten up."  I was very shocked and surprised.  I thought that things were calming down after the rights action last week.  The previous assault case on the two owners was still unresolved, so why would they assault Li Gang?

I hurried over to Li Gang's place and several other owners including members of the planning committee were there already.  Li Gang's father-in-law told us excitedly: "When the door opened, several men charged in.  They ask Li Gang whether he is Li Gang and they punched and kicked him."  At the time, the father-in-law and mother-in-law can only watch Li Gang being beaten.  The five-year-old son of Li Gang was also at home.  Afterwards, Li Gang called the police and informed the owners as well as his wife.  He was then taken by the owners to Zhong Shan Number Three Hospital.

I went downstairs with several others and we talked about this matter there.  After a while, a police van came.  A uniformed  police and a plainclothes police with a digital camera went to Li Gang's home.  We followed them up.  Li Gang's wife returned from the monitoring center to speak to the police.  The police took notes and let her sign the paper.  Then Li Gang's wife suggested going to the lobby surveillance camera to take fingerprints.  Just before the assault, the camera facing the front door had been turned towards a pillar.  The uniformed policeman used a flashlight to examine the camera and then he said: "No fingerprints."

Then Li Gang's wife suggested the police to go to the monitoring center because she had looked at the surveillance tapes and saw nothing.  The police went to the monitoring center.  We waited outside while they reviewed the tapes.  After about 10 minutes, the police came out.  There was nothing in the tapes.

After the assault, the thugs went down the stairs to leave by the west gate in the northern district.  Of the two security guards, one said that he was in the restroom and the other said that he did not notice.  The police took the statements from one of the security guards as well as an owner who witnessed the thugs fleeing down at the police station.  As one security guard was about to be taken away, the other security guard said: "Don't say anything wrong."  We were angered and we said: "Why do you mean?  What are you hinting at?  Is that a threat?"  This security guard quickly said: "He is new here.  I didn't mean anything."

Li Gang at an owners' rights defense rally

Li Gang being taken to the surgery room

The doctor shows the family members 
Li Gang's surgically removed spleen

Family members in grief

But this is also a highly significant media story.  The standard paradigm is that it is the people's Internet voice versus mainstream media in China (and if the mainstream media are losing, the Central Propaganda Department intercedes and spikes all mentions on the Internet).  This story is more complicated.

When the incident occurred on February 15, it was shocking that the Guangzhou media (that includes the mass circulation Guangzhou Daily and Southern Daily/Southern Metropolis Daily) had zero coverage.  The speculation was that the management owner was a former Guangdong provincial official and he had the connections within the Guangzhou Propaganda Department to suppress all coverage of this incident.  True or not, the undisputed fact is: zero coverage in Guangdong province.

Meanwhile, the owners as well as Li Gang's family launched a concerted Internet-based campaign to publicize this case.  Their ranks would swell with outraged people from all over the country.  This is the story that would not die, and it kept growing and growing instead.

Finally, the national media stepped in.  They observed the Internet firestorm and concluded that this was an important story.  They were also not subservient to the orders from a local propaganda department.  Thus, this story appeared on the "Eastern Time/Space (东方时空)" program on CCTV.

Once CCTV did it, this is what the Baidu page looks like (with links at Xinhua,, Netease, TOM,  Oh yes, is known in English as "Guangdong News" -- this case is now all over Guangdong.

This is very inefficient, but the cracks in the system are there to be exploited because the Internet is just getting to be too big to be centrally controlled by a few people.