Originally published in German in Der Spiegel
BEIJNG – In southwest China, in the early hours of Friday, August 12th, thousands of people were engaged in violent confrontations with the police. As the state news agency Xinhua reported, the protests began in the Qianxi district in Guizhou Province on Thursday evening. According to a report by a government news channel, angry protesters put cars on fire and built street barricades. At least ten policemen were injured in the riots, the report says. An official radio station reported that the riots erupted after a driver, who was parked wrong, got into an argument with city employees.
No pictures of the incident have been officially released, but photos, allegedly made during the night, are shown on the Chinese-language Canyu website. A crowd can be seen standing around a damaged police vehicle, the car is upside down, the windows are smashed. Another photo shows thousands of people gathered in a square, some filming or taking pictures with cell phones. Something is burning brightly at an intersection, presumably a car wreck. However, we can not confirm that the photos actually show the protests in Qianxi.
Xinhua reports that ten people who allegedly attacked the vehicles have been arrested. Ten cars were destroyed and five others were set on fire.
Since the beginning of the year, the Chinese government has been fearing that the Arab spring could spill over into their own country. There have been repeated clashes in recent months, but little known details emerge out of the authoritarian country.
In late July, it came to riots after the death of a disabled peddler in another town in Guizhou. The death of the one-legged fruit seller was blamed on so-called Chengguan officials. Urban security forces, who are generally very unpopular in China, are repeatedly being accused of excessive force. And even after a train accident in which several people died , there were mass protests. So far, however, no organized movement seems to have been formed.
According to a study, there were nearly 90,000 such incidents in China in 2009 alone. The study was created by two scholars at Nankai University in North China. Other estimates are much higher.
According to Radio Free Asia, which is based in Washington, the protests in China also continue to spread via the Internet — despite widespread information access barriers by state censors. Whoever went onto the microblogging website Weibo and searched for keywords from the region Qianxi to read the morning news found the site blocked because of “important legal arrangements.” But some postings came through, one citing the news agency Reuters: “In truth, China experiences riots worse than those in England every single week.”
The Beijing regime systematically suppresses critics, including the human rights activist Wang Lihong, who is currently due in court for participating in a demonstration. He risks several years in prison.
by Jérôme E. Roos on August 18, 2011