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Innocent Victim Beaten to Death after Filming City Officer’s Violence

Wei Wenhua, the manager of a water resources construction company in Tianmen City, Hubei Province, was beaten to death on January 7, 2008, by dozens of Municipal Law Enforcement officers known as chengguan in Tianmen, Hubei. He was beaten after using his mobile phone camera to film the officers in a violent clash with protesters. The death of Wei triggered an outrage from local residents. Municipal Law Enforcement chief Qi Zhengjun was fired because of Wei’s death. This is one of the few cases where Chinese official media covered social injustice and large scale unrest in a high profile way.

The following are excerpts from articles published in domestic and overseas Chinese language media.

On January 11, 2008, Chengdu Daily reported that,[1]

“Tianmen is a mid-sized city in the Wuhan metropolitan area, with a population of 280,000. Although the city generates more than 10, 600 cubic meters of trash every day, the city has to bury the trash in the open as it has no trash management facilities. In 2005, the Environment Protection Bureau signed a two-year contract with the village committee of Wanba in the suburbs of Tianmen to assign two fish ponds for burying the cities’ trash.

“Villagers living near the ponds did not agree with dumping trash into the ponds because of the strong foul smells, swarms of mosquitoes and flies, and deterioration of the water quality. Starting from January 1, 2008, the villagers blocked the garbage trucks from entering the area.

“Around 3 pm on January 7, the villagers blocked the garbage truck again. Around 5 pm, staffers of the local Environment Protection Bureau reported this to the chief of the Municipal Law Enforcement Bureau, who sent more than 50 officers to the spot. The officers, also known as chengguan, confronted the villagers. Several villagers were hurt during the fight.”

“According to Wang Liangfa, Vice Mayor of Tianmen and a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party of Tianmen city, the Municipal Law Enforcement Bureau has 80 formal officers, all of whom were hired following a process of competitive examinations. Wang testified that those who participated in the fight on the 7th were all official employees.

“Around 5:10 pm, Wei Wenhua, General Manager of the Tianmen Water Conservancy Construction Company, was driving back to downtown Tianmen city with the company’s party chief, Wang Shutang. Because the confrontation blocked traffic Wei got out of the car and taped the clash with his camera phone.

“According to Wang Shutang, while taping the incident, Wei was surrounded and beaten by a dozen of the chengguan. Wei lifted his arms and the chengguan grabbed his camera phone away. They attacked him for five minutes.

Wang recounted that the chengguan beat Wei from the east side of the road to the center of the road, and then from the center to the west side of the road, until Wei collapsed. Because Wei was not breathing, Wang asked the chengguan to send Wei to the hospital. According to the doctor at Tianmen First People’s Hospital, Wei was already dead when he arrived at the hospital.

“At present, over 100 related personnel, including Qi Zhengjun, Deputy Secretary-General of the city government and chief of the Municipal Law Enforcement Bureau are under investigation. The Public Security Bureau has charged 24 suspects and detained four on criminal charges.”

Xinhua News Agency reported on January 12, [2]

“Currently, (the Public Security Bureau) has detained four suspects on criminal charges including Sun Daibang, chief of Discipline Inspection of the Municipal Law Enforcement Bureau. Qi Zhengjun, Deputy Secretary-General of the city government and chief of The Municipal Law Enforcement Bureau was fired and is under investigation.”

Radio Free Asia reported on January 11 that, [3]

“After Wei was beaten to death, hundreds of villagers and Wei’s relatives took his body to the Municipal Law Enforcement Bureau, and then paraded to the city government office. The body was placed in front of the city government building, and thousands of people surrounded the building. The government, fearing the situation would get out of control, decided to snatch the body. According to Wei’s relatives, more than 100 fire fighters, military police, special police, and plain clothes police rushed to grab the body. Wei’s family confronted them and attempted to protect the body. Finally the police succeeded in seizing the body.”

In an article from Voice of America on January 10, [4]

“Critics said that violent enforcement of the law has been abhorred by the Chinese people, but nothing could be done about it. This type of direct violation of citizens’ personal freedoms and even life has become common practice. These cases are not newsworthy in China.

“When the law enforcement personnel use violence against the public, China’s official media usually play down the story. However, beating Wei Wenhua to death for merely filming the violence of the law enforcement officers triggered enormous anger among the people. This time, official media reacted quite differently in from the past.”

“Qing Geng, a Chinese writer, said that the anger shown by official media is quite funny. It sounds as if this type of violence by law enforcement officers is something foreign, instead of the regular occurrence that it is in China.”

“He added, knowingly violating the law is not a new phenomenon. Why didn’t the official media express anger? Why does it come so late?”
“Observers pointed out that although the official media responded to the death of Wei Wenhua, it has been avoiding a critical issue: the key to the violation of basic human rights of the Chinese people by chengguan or government/party officials is that the power of the party/government is not subject to public constraint and scrutiny.”

[1] Chengdu Daily, January 11, 2008
[2] Xinhua News Agency, January 12, 2008
[3] Radio Free Asia, January 11, 2008
[4] Voice of America, January 10, 2008

The American Way Represents U.S. Interests

The Global Times published an article by Chen Yugang, an Assistant Professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University, titled: “The American Way Is Driven by the U.S.’ Own Interests.” The article criticizes the U.S. for using the “American Way” to protect its own interests and to establish policies for other countries to follow. It lists examples, including the following: Americans live in big houses and drive big size vehicles despite the global warming crisis. The U.S. condemns the human rights record of other countries but it refuses to be part of the International Criminal Court and tortures its detainees. The U.S. pulled out of the anti-ballistic missile treaty. The U.S. failed to keep its promise not to let the NATO expand its ranks into Eastern Europe. Finally, after the U.S. relocated its energy intensive industries elsewhere, it blamed another country for being number one in carbon emissions. The article said that the confidence that the American people have in themselves as being the “representatives of God to save the world” or “the U.S. is the best” is an attitude of rudeness that can’t be trusted. It concluded that the “American Way” is a way that fits best with the U.S.’ own interests and is not the only established standard that works.

Source: Xinhua, January 17, 2008

Mainland Scholars Call for Action to Oppose the CCTV Spring Festival Gala

On January 15, 2008, five Mainland scholars issued a joint statement titled, “Declaration of the New Spring Festival Culture.” The scholars expressed in the Declaration that the Chinese Spring Festival in itself symbolizes civilization and freedom and should not be subject to any political, economic or cultural restrictions. The scholars oppose the annual Spring Festival Gala held by the State television network, China Central Televison (CCTV), since that enables the Gala to be used as a propaganda tool to glorify the Communist Party.

The Communist regime re-named the Chinese New Year as the Chinese Spring Festival after its takeover of the Mainland in 1949. Every year, CCTV has a gala as the official State celebration. The Chinese New Year begins on February 7, 2008.

Source: Xinhua, January 17, 2008
Zhong Ren Net, January 15, 2008

There’s a Workers Strike Every Day in Guangdong Province

Han Dongfang, a China workers activist told Radio Free Asia that in the Pearl River Delta region of Guangdong Province there is at least one workers’ strike a day that consists of a minimum of one thousand workers. That is in addition to the number of smaller scale strikes that take place. These workers are mainly from inland provinces such as Sichuan, Guizhou, Hubei and Hunan. He said currently the government only intervenes when the situation is out of control. As a result, workers are inadvertently encouraged to resort to strong measures such as strikes. Han said that the international community holds a fantasy that economic development will help China. However, the reason it is a fantasy is that people don’t know what lies behind the economic development: the sacrifice of many people’s health and rights.

Source: BBC, January 16, 2008

Demolition of a Symbolic Bulletin Board, the Sanjiaodi, at Peking University

On October 30, a bulletin board, once called the Democracy Wall and also called Sanjiaodi, at Peking University was demolished. The wall witnessed decades of significant historical events of Chinese history. Its demolition has received both local and international media attention.

The Beijing News reported on November 11, 2007:[1]
“Students of Peking University get information on housing/room rentals, lectures, and job openings through the Sanjiaodi bulletin board. Looking for information at Sanjiaodi has become a characteristic of Peking University. Student organizations will put out display boards at Sanjiaodi to announce campus community news.

"Mr. Wu from class of ’99 said that the Sanjiaodi is famous because it’s a place for information sharing and cultural exchange. Wu added, “Having such symbolic role, how can it be demolished so lightly? We cannot forget her place in our heart.”

Xinhua News Agency reported on the same day: [2]
“Peking University’s news spokesperson Zhao Weimin indicated that, the Sanjiaodi bulletin board had been around for many years. The demolition is due to regulation of the campus environment.

"Zhao said with the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games, the campus environment needs an overall renovation. This bulletin board, which was a platform for information dissemination, is not functioning as it should, as it mostly posts housing rentals and other advertisements. As the campus computer network is well developed, information exchange can be done through the network. He said the future site plan for the Sanjiaodi is under discussion.”

Voice of America reported on December 29, 2007: [3]
“Zhao Yong, a Beijing Normal University professor raised a question in his recent article: What is really being demolished at Sanjiaodi? Zhao’s article, in addition to mentioning several concerns regarding the demolition, asked a few more questions: Who made the proposal? Who authorized the demolition? What procedure was followed? Why wasn’t the discussion disclosed? Zhao questions, ‘Isn’t that Sanjiaodi, although no longer a platform for exchange of pure ideas and thoughts, a reflection of an important cultural phenomenon with the contents switching to overwhelming commercial information?’

"Zhao further connected the demolition to the Chinese regime’s ideology of ‘destroying an old world and building a new world.’ In 1957, despite the opposition from renowned architect Liang Sicheng, the Chinese regime dismantled the ancient city wall of Beijing. … In order to build a new Beijing and a new Olympics, Beijing is also making an all out effort to demolish Siheyuan. [4] Not only Beijing, all the cities around the country are demolishing and rebuilding, giving up traditional characteristics."
An article titled ”Peking University’s Sanjiaodi Bulletin Board Fades Out in History” was published by Zaobao (Singapore) on November 12, 2007: [5]
“The demolition of Sanjiaodi did not stir any reaction among the students. If the media had not reported, it would have gone unnoticed.”

“One Peking University graduate of the class of 1981 said that back then all the students would take a look at the bulletin board when they passed by. At that time, there was only one television for each dormitory building. With very few newspapers and magazines available, Sanjiaodi, was on the only way to the classrooms, became part of campus life.”

“The removal of Sanjiaodi is not only for political reasons. Starting from the 1990s, when the Internet became popular, the bulletin board function of Sanjiaodi was replaced by the Internet. A few political dissidents who once studied at Peking University, including several human rights attorneys and political commentators, have  expressed their opinions mostly through the Internet instead of Sanjiaodi.”

“However, the BBS site Yitahutu, through which Peking University students discuss current affairs, fell in the battle earlier than Sanjiaodi. Yitahutu, established in 1999, gained immediate popularity among the students. Its ‘Sanjiaodi‘ online section (following the name of the bulletin board) was famous for free discussion of political affairs. When the site was shut down in 2004, Peking University lost the platform for free expression.”

“Since the university computer network is well developed, any information exchanged or discussed can be done through the network.”

Nanfang Daily reported reactions from students on November 2, 2007: [6]
“The demolition made a great stir at [7] Many students raised questions: who proposed the demolition? Who authorized this? What procedure was followed? Why is everyone in the dark?”

“‘The Weiming Lake, Yabo Tower, Jingyuan Grass Land, and Sanjiaodi are all symbols of Peking University. How can it be casually demolished? Will Yabo Tower be torn down tomorrow?’ asked some students emotionally.”

“October 31 on the BBS, an extensive discussion appeared to be against the demolition. Most people were against the demolition with very few showing support.”
“Many students voiced their opinion that the Democracy Wall has both spiritual and historical significance and their opinion should have been sought and respected before any decision for the demolition was made.

"An internet user said that ‘Sanjiaodi was already dead, but a dead Sanjiaodi still has its historical significance and a special place. How can it be casually destroyed?’

"It’s reported that an electronic board would replace the demolished wall. However many feel that this means the Peking University’s administration will have full control over the information on display and hence restrict any free exchange of information."

[1] Beijing News, November 11, 2007
[2] Xinhua News Agency, Novemerb 11, 2007
[3] Voice of America, December 29, 2007
[4] Siheyuan (四合院) was a type of residence commonly found throughout China, but most famously in Beijing. The name literally means a courtyard surrounded by four buildings. Throughout Chinese history, the siheyuan composition was the basic pattern used for residences, palaces, temples, monasteries, family dwellings, businesses, and government offices. The history of Siheyuan goes as early as the Western Zhou period (1122 BC to 256 BC). Siheyuan carries the most outstanding and fundamental characteristics of Chinese architecture.
[5] Zaobao, November 12, 2007
[6] Nanfang Daily, November 2, 2007
[7] A popular online BBS for Chinese students.

Beijing Builds Detention Centers to Protect the Olympic Games

In order to express their grievances, mainland petitioners usually show up at major state activities where they can attract media attention to their plight. For example, on the second day of Indian Prime Minister Singh’s visit, the overseas Chinese affairs website Canyu reported that more than 100 petitioners attempted to enter Tiananmen Square. The police stopped them and escorted them back. It has been reported that the square is now being heavily guarded. One petitioner from Heilongjiang revealed that Beijing has set up a transit point in the suburbs to detain petitioners and prevent foreign media from accessing them during the Olympics. Similar detention centers for petitioners have also been built in all provinces and cities.

Source: Radio Free Asia, January 15, 2008