Fighting Fire With Fire?

Last we knew, when the Chinese government wanted to demolish houses, it had ways of getting the residents to submit. It’s hard to combat that, but if recent events are any indication, some citizens have adopted a new resistance technique: fire.

First there’s the case of Pan Yong, a woman in Shanghai who, to protest the demolition of her house and the inadequate compensation she was being given for it by the government, tossed molotov cocktails at the demolition vehicles from her roof. For those of you who play fewer video games than I do, a molotov cocktail is a glass bottle filled with flammable liquid that is ignited via a makeshift fuse (usually a rag) and is used as a sort of improvised incendiary grenade. It’s not clear what’s going to happen to Mrs. Pan, but we can’t imagine it will be good. Then again, the case has already attracted nationwide attention and a large amount of sympathy, stemming especially from a post Han Han made about it (English translation here via CDT).

Then there’s the case of a Chengdu woman who, in order to protest the demolition of her house, lit herself on fire. This story, too, has become big on the Chinese internet, and translated comments on it can be found at ChinaSMACK, but they didn’t translate much of the actual story. We thought we’d offer a bit more background for the curious (translated from the Mop article):

“You guys stay back, we can sit down and discuss this; otherwise, I’m going to light myself on fire!” In the cold clear of an early winter morning, a middle aged woman in a nightgown stood atop a three-story building with the Chinese flag waving quietly in the background. She was seen to lift a drum of oil and cover herself with it, at the same time she was continuously talking through a megaphone.


Sister Tang, calm down a bit! Don’t try to oppose the government! There’s still time to come down!” People downstairs were yelling [things like this] up to the woman.

Ten or so minutes later, some other people climbed to the roof, probably to try to stop the woman, and in an instant, the scene turned grisly. The woman became a red fireball, jumping and struggling on the rooftop…

Truly a sad tale. One of the article subtitles later in the Mop piece (it’s quite long) got us thinking: “Violent enforcement of the law or violent resistance of the law?” We can’t help feeling as though perhaps one has bred the other here. One would have to be living under a rock not to have heard of instances where violence is used to “enforce the law” (i.e., get people out of their homes so they can be demolished). Violently resisting the law is less common, but if these two rooftop ladies are any indication, it might be getting more popular.

We can’t help wondering if this isn’t a case of “you reap what you sow.”


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