U.S. President Bush’s visit to China in November was a step to keep close ties with Asia and a perceived opportunity to nudge China’s reform toward Western democracy and freedoms. This was reflected by Bush’s remarks on the success of a democratic transformation in Taiwan and Mongolia, and his attending a church service in Beijing before meetings with Chinese leaders. These gestures, as usual, fell on deaf ears with the Chinese communist regime.
Shortly after Bush’s departure, gunfire erupted at Dongzhou Village in Shanwei City, Guangdong Province, where defenseless farmers and fishermen fell before bullets fired by the People’s Police. Dozens were left dead and many more injured, according to locals. This tragedy occurred on December 6, 2005, while some local residents were protesting the seizure of their lands by the government for power plant development. The protests had lasted for nearly half a year.
The timing of the incident was hardly accidental. Choosing to act shortly after Bush’s Asia trip, the Chinese regime thus gave a response to Bush’s "request" for a more democratic China. Meanwhile, it might also have served as a test to see how the world would react. Amidst the ever-worsening social unrest, the regime has probably felt increasingly insecure about its grip on power and turned to the tried-and-true method of ending a messy problem with bloodshed.
Amazingly, responses from the international community have been unusually indifferent. Perhaps Western democracies feel hopeless in trying to reason with an irrational regime, or they are simply desensitized after witnessing so many brutalities over the years. Meanwhile, various Chinese weiquan (rights protection) groups, both inside and outside China, have unanimously condemned the regime’s latest killings. The local residents turned to media based outside of China for help to expose the killings; the media then transmitted the news back to China. Two radio stations, Radio Free Asia and a recent upstart Sound of Hope (featured story in the current issue), were the first to report the incident and played a pivotal role in making the Chinese people aware of what had happened.
In the aftermath, the regime sent a delegation to investigate the incident, claiming that it was the on-site official who gave the open-fire order and that only three were killed. It’s pointless to argue with the regime over how many actually died, as the impartiality of the investigation is dubious at best. One thing is certain, however. With today’s communication tools, it’s nearly impossible to completely cover up the truth. Chinese weiquan activists are already conducting their own investigation. As the Chinese weiquan movement gains prominence, one can only hope that the regime will find killing off those that it finds troublesome, embarrassing, or simply inconvenient less and less attractive as an option for solving its problems.