Police Violence, Public Anger, and the Local as National

I guess it’s just one of those days. This morning saw the rise of incident 1, which was the most-searched for item on Baidu when I checked. This evening, news of incident 2 is spreading quickly via a Youku video, although it’s clearly in danger of being deleted.

Incident 1: Hunan Traffic Cops Beat Driver for No Reason

This morning, Baidu’s hottest topic was this, a story of completely unnecessary violence on the part of traffic police that finally attracted a mob who flipped a police car in Hunan. I don’t have time to translate the entire article, but here’s the summary of it I wrote this morning for The World of Chinese, slightly expanded:

Traffic cops [交警] in Hengdong, Hunan, appeared at an intersection where they generally do not in large numbers. Several cars passed through the intersection with problem. Suddenly, a BYD F3 drove through the intersection and they flagged it down. The driver stopped on the street on the other side of the intersection, at which point the traffic cops dragged him out of the car and started beating for no apparent reason. When his mother came over, groveling on her knees and begging the cops not to hit him, they started beating her, too. The same thing happened to the driver’s wife when she came out. This attracted a large crowd, which surrounded the cops and asked them to stop. The police then began threatening the crowd, and continued beating until both the driver and his wife had been knocked unconscious.

At this point, someone called the actual police [保安], and the traffic cops told them that the man had been driving drunk, but this was quickly proved to be false. Then the traffic cops said they hadn’t beaten anyone and blamed the violence on a local bully/gangster. Onlookers started laughing at this point, as hundreds of people had seen them beating the man. Although the traffic cops themselves were unharmed, at some point the crowd of onlookers got angry enough to flip a police car onto its side and, from the look of this photo, rip the lights off as well.

Eventually it turned out that the intersection was meant to be closed for the military to pass through, but the traffic police had not informed anyone of this or put up any signs about it being closed. According to the article, the traffic police in this country are already notorious for being unfair, violent, and generally disagreeable.

Incident 2: Harbin Chengguan Beat Street Vendor (?)

Meanwhile, this video is currently spreading through Chinese social networks. It’s a couple days old but appears to be just getting noticed now, approaching 200,000 plays and climbing at a rate of about 10,000 views every 15 minutes at the moment. At the moment, it seems to be spreading mostly through Harbin networks, as the incident happened in Harbin ((I used to live in Harbin and many of my Chinese friends are from the area, which is how I got clued into this.))

http://player.youku.com/player.php/sid/XMjY0Nzc2Nzg4/v.swf

The video is extremely chaotic, loud, and shaky, so it’s very difficult to tell exactly what’s happening. The my interpretation is something like this: Before the video starts, Harbin chengguan obviously got into some kind of dispute with the man who they start beating when he follows them at the beginning of the video. Based on some of the comments, it appears the chengguan may have taken the man’s money too, but there’s no clear shot of them doing that in the video. There’s already a large crowd, so obviously whatever they were doing was drawing a lot of attention. Shortly after the video starts, they are clearly gang-beating someone, perhaps several people quite violently, and appear to throw some punches and kicks at onlookers who get too close, although it’s very difficult to see clearly.

The crowd, which is quite large, is mostly hurling abuse at the chengguan. One of the more audible things I heard screamed at one point was “Are you guys chengguan or gangsters?” There were also lots of curses in both Mandarin and in the northeastern dialect.

The chengguan eventually seem to realize things are way out of their control, but the crowd follows them, not physically preventing them from moving but also not letting them get away, and continuing to hurl abuse at them. The video ends when they get to a police station. Several witnesses and victims go into the station to give statements, as does the cameraman. The crowd stays outside the station doors, blocking traffic and watching. A very loud young woman shouts at them repeatedly that “everyone” should go into the station, since they all saw the event, and to ensure that the chengguan don’t “get away.” Unsurprisingly, the police are not big fans of that plan — there’s no way the 1/10th of the crowd could possibly have fit into the station anyway — and try to talk both her and the crowd down. That’s where the video ends.

I have no idea how this situation was resolved, the video cuts off and there don’t appear to be any news stories about this event that I was able to find via Baidu. By tomorrow afternoon, I expect the video will either have amassed half a million (or more) views, or it will be completely scrubbed from the internet.

Translated Comments

These are some comments from the Youku video, so they only pertain to incident 2.

“It’s true, no one has it easy…these days, actually, the situation is that low-level people harass the people who are even lower than them ((This is a reference to social/economic class, not character; what the commenter means is that the chengguan aren’t people with any real status either.))”

“What a tragedy, even the battle-capacity of chengguan has gone done, how are we ever going to retake Taiwan now? There’s so much left to do.” ((This comment is almost certainly sarcastic.))

“Rise, people who are no longer willing to be slaves! ((This is a line from the Chinese national anthem))”

“Whose money are those fucking chengguan taking…”

“I really want to know who that woman [who is yelling in the video] is…especially during that last bit, haha, it’s like that part in Let the Bullets Fly where Jiang Wen is shouting at the mob of commoners, and no one moves an inch, then he says Huang San is dead and everyone goes at once.”

“[In response to the above comment] the People need a wake up call….”

“That woman talking is just a stupid cunt, blah blah, get them, everyone go inside, it’s all just blah blah blah….and that guy next to her, what a lout.”

“After a century of slumber, my countrymen are finally awakening. Watching the girl at the end calling for everyone to go in, and then seeing no one at all enter, my heart grew cold. It’s like in Lu Xun’s story “Medicine” where the numb Chinese watch as the martyr is executed in front of them. Everyone is just watching as though the matter doesn’t concern them. But people are slowly waking up to reality. The first line of our national anthem teaches us this; everyone chants the anthem numbly but have you ever thought about what it says carefully? Rise, ye who are no longer willing to be slaves, let our blood and our bodies become the new Great Wall. ((This comment was originally written in traditional characters, so there’s a decent chance it was written by someone from Taiwan or Hong Kong.))”

“[In response to the above comment] Well said! Are you Chinese? If you are, vote up!”

“To the girl that is talking, are you afraid that China isn’t in chaos? It’s because of people like you that Chinese society is not harmonious.”

“[In response to the above comment] What’s wrong with protecting the rights and interests of citizens? What is called “unharmonious”? She was doing it in the interests of everyone, do you get it? Always standing on the edge, sleeping a deep sleep, that is “harmony” that’s what cowards like you do.”

“The level of a nation’s civilization is not in whether or not it can host the Olympics, whether or not it can put on a World Expo, whether or not it can host the Asian games, or in how much trash American national debt it can buy. It’s not in the number of millions of people who can travel abroad, it is in letting citizens sit at home without fear of burning to death, letting vendors sell their wares without fear of being slapped around, letting people walk without worrying about being run over by Li Gang’s BMW, and letting people eat without worrying about being poisoned.”

My Comments

There are tons more comments on Youku, but that seems as good a place to stop as any. In the time it took me to translate those, views of the video jumped by another 20,000, and another 40 or so comments were posted. Local “mass incidents” like this have been happening for years, of course. The difference is that now they’re all broadcast on the internet, and (mostly) interpreted by netizens within a national context rather than a local one.

Note how many of the comments above — chosen more or less at random, I basically just translated a couple full pages that were at the front of the comments thread — refer to this as though it were a national issue, or indicative of a larger national issue, rather than just a local scuffle ((Comments about the character of Dongbeiren nonwithstanding)). China is big enough that this sort of thing doesn’t happen in one’s backyard too often, but clearly people who surf the net are starting to feel like they’re seeing the same thing over and over again (probably because they are). These “local issue” protests aren’t really local anymore. No one in Beijing is going to take up arms against Harbin chengguan, of course, but the actions of people in Harbin or Hunan are now interpreted as reflecting not just local issues, but national ones.

I believe that is a significant shift from the prevailing mood, say, ten or fifteen years ago, and one that we can almost certainly attribute primarily to the internet. The consequences of this shift in national policy are not yet evident, but I expect them to be. This, I suspect, is one of the things about the internet that makes the government so nervous.

I’m sure I will be accused of taking these comments “out of context” or picking only the ones that serve my Western imperialist agenda ((like all Westerners would do, as we were trained by our Western government.)), but go browse the comments on the Youku video yourself, assuming it still exists by the time you see this — it may well not. There is a very clear mood there that’s reflected in the comments I translated above. I’ll leave the extrapolation and a better explanation of my theory to the comments for now; this post is already way too long.

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0 thoughts on “Police Violence, Public Anger, and the Local as National”

  1. Excellent stuff. It feels like there is starting to be a shift against the gov’t as events like these become more widely known.
    Also explains why People’s Daily has been running articles encouraging the police to work on the people’s behalf.

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  2. On the first incident. The cop cars should’ve have loudspeakers to tell drivers to stop. How do you know this guy is not drunk? I mean he didn’t take a breath test, did he? Still, didn’t justify the beating. On the second incident, the guy is trying to resist arrest.

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  3. @ pug_ster: When the actual (保安) arrived, I believe they did give him a breathalyzer, yeah. The story I was reading didn’t say that explicitly but it did say the 保安 quickly discerned that the guy wasn’t drunk. He was unconscious, of course, but still breathing, so it would have been quite easy to administer the breath test, so I assume that’s what they did. But I don’t know for sure.

    Re the second incident, that’s not really what it looks like to me, they walk away and leave him behind at one point. Also, 城管 aren’t actually police; do they have the authority to arrest anyone? Anyway, the situation — and whatever happened before the video — is unclear so there’s really no way to be sure. But we can be sure that pretty much everyone who saw the situation felt the 城管 were acting improperly, otherwise why 围观 and why follow them back to the PSB station?

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  4. ““What a tragedy, even the battle-capacity of chengguan has gone done, how are we ever going to retake Taiwan now? There’s so much left to do.”3”

    WTF?? Please tell me you have bigger plans for the future than harassing Taiwan. For the umpteenth time.

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  5. @Tom –

    “Excellent stuff. It feels like there is starting to be a shift against the gov’t as events like these become more widely known.”

    I’m afraid I can’t believe this. People have known for years that the chengguan are a pack of thugs, and do not need these videos to tell them that this is the case. More likely this kind of video gives them an opportunity to voice their opinions on what this says about the government they live under.

    @TC – Got there before me with the Rodney King ref, perhaps you would like to remind us all how that one turned out?

    @Custer –

    Here’s the relevant statute on citizens arrest:

    “[Article 7] Any citizen may forthwith seize the following offenders and deliver them to a public security organ, a people’s procuratorate or a people’s court for handling:

    (1) a person who is in the process of committing a crime or is discovered immediately after committing a crime;

    (2) a person who is wanted for arrest;

    (3) a person who has escaped from prison; or

    (4) a person who is being pursued for arrest.”

    You can read the rest of the statute here:

    http://www.novexcn.com/arrest_detention.html

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  6. Oh, and Lu Xun’s story was based on a photograph he saw whilst studying medicine in Japan:

    “At the time, I hadn’t seen any of my fellow Chinese in a long time, but one day some of them showed up in a slide. One, with his hands tied behind him, was in the middle of the picture; the others were gathered around him. Physically, they were as strong and healthy as anyone could ask, but their expressions revealed all too clearly that spiritually they were calloused and numb. According to the caption, the Chinese whose hands were bound had been spying on the Japanese military for the Russians. He was about to be decapitated as a ‘public example.’ The other Chinese gathered around him had come to enjoy the spectacle.”

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  7. @ FOARP: Re: the legal stuff…interesting!

    Re: Lu Xun…yes, and that moment was, in fact, what caused him to give up trying to become a doctor. Don’t try to out Lu Xun-me. I wrote a 200 page undergrad thesis on him (well, mostly on him). 😉

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  8. @Custer – I certainly wouldn’t claim that my Chinese is as good as yours. It is not terrible, but it is still not at the level where I can read a book without my own ignorance getting in the way of me enjoying it. My Chinese copy of “War Of The Worlds”, for example, is half-covered with my scrawled notes even though I had the advantage of already having read the English version. Lu Xun, however, always felt worth the investment. “Tomorrow” is my favourite piece of Chinese writing, and one of my favourite pieces of writing in any language.

    As for the statute, the point is that, yes, if under no other power, Chengguan have the same powers of arrest that any Chinese citizen has. Foreign residents don’t qualify for it though, sorry. This differs from England & Wales, for example, where the statute simply says “person”, but the circumstances under which it can be used are fairly standard for most jurisdictions.

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  9. “This morning saw the rise of incident 1, which was the most-searched for item on Baidu when I checked.”

    I’ve never lived in the Mainland. The above seemed to tell me police brutality in China is rare. That’s why it’s a big deal.

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  10. @TC –

    “I’ve never lived in the Mainland.”

    Obviously. If you had you’d know that the Chengguan are infamous for their thug-life habits. There’s commentary all over the internet on this, not just on this thread.

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  11. I am very surprised whenever they hear the word “Taiwan”, some westerners become so excited as if Taiwan is still their colony or something. Much more excited than I, who was born there, and so was my father, my grandfather, my grand-grand father ….. “WTF??”.

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  12. @TC – I am also surprised to hear people who were born in Taiwan, but moved to another country and claimed the citizenship of that country, speaking as though they had a special right to it. This gets particularly annoying when you see Taiwan-born naturalized US/Canadian/Australian/etc. citizens carrying on about the indivisibility of China and how “foreigners” or “westerners” don’t understand it.

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  13. If you see the rodney king video over and over again you will probably believe that US cops are a bunch of thugs. Most of the time Western Media videotape Chengguan’s they are usually pushing the reporters away. If I go outside and videotape cops in the US even when they are doing nothing, they will come up to me and force me to delete the video.

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  14. Many Western writers tend to be the prosecutor, judge, and jury all in one on Chinese incidents. Who really know who were really at fault in the videos? There are good auxiliary cops and bad auxiliary cops in every country. It is common sense, and Chinese should know this too. At the end of the day, Chinese also know that they are living in a safer society than America’s, where the number of jailed criminals exceeds that of China’s in absolute numbers.

    Exposure of incidents like this is a good thing. If it proves that it is indeed the auxiliary police’s fault, it will force the local police to clean up their force, and local government to compensate the victims. If necessary, civil and criminal laws have to be amended. This is how society progresses.

    Only those who really look down on Chinese and Chinese judicial system, and insist that ordinary Chinese have no capability of discretion, and Chinese law never renders justice, will fantasize the exposure of this kind of incidents will destabilize, instead of stabilize, Chinese society long-termly.

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  15. @Putzster – Oddly enough, Chinese television almost never reports on chengguan beating people, yet a lot of Chinese people think they’re a pack of thugs, why is that?

    I can’t think of any news broadcasts that I have ever seen on an American/European TV station that actually carried footage shot by a US/European cameraman in China of the chengguan. If you can find some, get to it, but I haven’t seen any.

    Oh, and taking pictures of the police? I’ve done it in the UK. I have friends who videoed them at protests. No problems, no deletion.

    Once again: why is it that you come here when you never discuss the topic at hand but only 1) The US, and 2) “Foreigners” (which nowadays includes you, for your information).

    @SCL – Read the translated comments. They are written by Chinese people. They are, in my experience, not unrepresentative of attitudes in Mainland China towards the chengguan. Carrying on about the US or what “westerners” think, and how Chinese people feel about the police (whilst not citing any information to support your assertions) is not going to convince anyone of anything.

    As for whether increased exposure of this kind of thing stabilises or destabilises Chinese society, I don’t think it has much of an effect either way. It does not tell people anything they do not already know, and until it is recognised, rather than censored by officials, there is nothing they have to do about it.

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  16. @FOARP,

    I just expressed my opinion. I did not attempt to convince anyone of anything. The comments you mentioned read like something written by people who were informed, and displayed amazing diversity in opinions. Chinese people are not at all brain-washed, or living in darkness as someone would image. I do not think the mistrust between Chinese and Chinese police has deteriorated to the extent of what had transpired among blacks in America, before the invention of internet. Similarly, Chinese will know the truth with or without internet. So I agree with you, nothing will really happen short-termly, just because it is exposed on internet.

    The exposure of police cruelty toward blacks during the civil rights movement eventually improved the conditions for blacks. I believe similar things will occur in China.

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  17. I love what’s happening here. Note pug_ster and scl completely ignoring any Chinese agency in these videos, and subtly implying that foreigners had something to do with them.

    Pugster; “most of the time Western Media videotape Chengguan’s they are usually pushing the reporters away.”

    scl: “Many Western writers tend to be the prosecutor, judge, and jury all in one on Chinese incidents. Who really know who were really at fault in the videos? ”

    @ pug-ster: First of all, what? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a western media video of chengguan doing anything, unless you count the usual cat-and-mouse games they play at Tiananmen every 6-4 (although I think those guys are all PSB, not chengguan). Every video of chengguan violence I’ve ever seen has been 拍客 stuff like this, all filmed and posted online by Chinese people. Would love to see even one example of what you’re talking about….

    @ scl: Isn’t it amazing how, when a foreigner suggests something in China happened one way, you feel the need to jump out an imply that it’s just foreigners and their judgmental anti-China rhetoric even when the conclusion I’m drawing is very obviously supported by the words and behavior of the hundreds of Chinese eyewitnesses to the event who are evident in the video.

    The apparent rule of thumb: Westerners don’t understand China because they’re not Chinese. Many Chinese people don’t understand China because they’re too fed up with “local” issues to see the big picture. Comments suggesting local issues and the big picture are connected don’t count because they don’t represent what “most Chinese” — and we all know people living in the US are really in touch with the moods of everyone on the mainland — are thinking.

    Bottom line: any opinion that isn’t pro-government is incorrect, always. If it’s a foreigner saying it, it’s because they don’t understand. If it’s a foreigner passing along what Chinese people said, either the foreigner is intentionally misrepresenting their words or the Chinese people are a minority and whatever they’re saying should be ignored. If it’s a Chinese person saying it directly, they’re probably being paid by one of the many “Western anti-China” forces to say it. And if it’s a government official saying it, it’s just more evidence that the government is great because look how transparent and honest they are now!

    …I give up.

    @ tc: Police brutality on the mainland is common, and everyone knows it. The stories attract attention, but they are far from rare. Just before this story, another big story on Baidu’s top searches was about a middle school teacher who was brutally beaten by police until they realized he just “kinda looked like” the suspect they were looking for. The teacher was completely innocent.

    As someone else said, chengguan are especially famous for being ruthlessly violent. Just look at some of the comments in this post, like the one about liberating Taiwan — it doesn’t make sense as a joke unless your audience knows chengguan are famous for being violent. Or, just search for ”城管“ on Weibo or Chinese BBS forums or basically anywhere. Their reputation is, in fact, so horrible that some city — I forget which, might have been Shanghai? — started intentionally hiring young attractive females to be chengguan to give them a “friendly face” and try to turn the reputation around last year.

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  18. @ tc: Further further note: In fact, chengguan are even somewhat notorious among real police. Last year there were a couple high profile clashes between chengguan and actual cops which could be generally summarized more or less this way:

    -Chengguan acting like total assholes
    -Regular police see them, stop them, remind them of the existence of laws
    -Chengguan flip out and start attacking regular police

    (results vary depending upon who has more people on the scene at the time).

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  19. C Custer,

    I never said there’s anything wrong with the Chinese people videotaping these incidents. The problem is that there has been this kind of ‘extra attention’ aka sensationalizing from the western Media to point out these actions by the Chengguans. Why doesn’t the Western Media want to point out these kind of ‘Chengguans’ from their own countries? China bashing is always a favorite pastime for Western Media so that it will reinforce this kind of China’s police brutality demeanor so they can brainwash people FOARP believing that China is a police state while the Western countries are becoming more like one.

    http://www.economist.com/node/18681714

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  20. @C. Custer,

    I did not jump out to imply anything. I have no idea how you got your opinion about my post. I just wanted to point out that the official response to police brutality, or Army atrocity, such as those committed by Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, is always “there are bad apples”, which implies that the police force and Army at large are not responsible.

    But when things come to China, as your article suggests, local events have to be expanded to national level, isolated incidents have to be made look like recurrent, and the number of a few bad cops have to be exaggerated to include most of the cops in China (never mind there are hundreds of thousands). You might think internet makes generalization easier. But generalization is the hallmark of bias. This not only shows up in your article, it is also a common and recurrent theme in many Western reports about China.

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  21. @Putzster – Way to totally ignore what was said. Once again – when has any “western” TV station ever filmed the chengguan at work? When has any “western” TV station ever carried video footage of the chengguan? You’re talking about the “western” TV stations sensationalising something which I have never even seen them cover.

    And then, once again, as proof of something that the “western” media doesn’t cover, you cite a report from the Economist, which itself cites reportage from the New York Times, and discusses stories which have been widely discussed by other news media. Last I checked, the Economist was a British magazine and the New York Times was a US news paper.

    That’s right – as proof of a story the “western” media doesn’t cover, you cited coverage of that story in the Anglo-American press. Well done.

    So there you go. You assert something as true without giving any evidence for it, and then make another assertion citing as evidence something which directly contradicts your assertion.

    So: why do you, an American with apparently no interest in China, still comment here?

    @Scl – I don’t know if you know this or not, but 1) this a China blog so it discusses China, 2) Custer is not a representative of the US government, and 3) it is the response of Chinese commenters themselves to these incidents that makes the generalisation, Custer is merely commenting on that.

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  22. “The problem is that there has been this kind of ‘extra attention’ aka sensationalizing from the western Media to point out these actions by the Chengguans.”

    Yes, that’s right. Chengguans beating people is not the problem. western media sensationalizing beatings by chengguangs is the problem. Now Custer, delete this post, and do your research properly. Rather than finding out what Chinese people are saying about their own country in Chinese on Chinese sites, which is clearly a minority view that you have hunted down and translated to make it seem like Chinese people care about Chinese people getting beaten up, and focus on the real problem – find an article where western media flagrantly sensationalize beatings by chengguans, and write a post on it. Do not talk about the beatings or why they took place, but how the western media distorts reality, for that is surely the far worse crime and of course what the focus of this post should be.

    Chinese people by and large understand that random beatings are a necessary evil for the greater good of maintaining harmony, and only the ones that disagree online do not. However, they all agree what can’t be countenanced is western media beating up these stories on chengguan beating people up. But you are an outsider, even though you live in China and have a lot of Chinese friends, so how could you possibly understand?

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  23. @ pug_ster: Because this happens way more often in China. We can discuss why that is, but it’s just not something you can deny. There’s a reason why when I talk about this in China, I’m talking about something that happened last week, and when you guys talk about it in the US you’re talking about something that happened in 1992. Yes, obviously, there are more recent police beatings than that in the US…but how many were there last week? I know of two just in China high profile enough to make major headlines. How many were there in the US last week?

    This is not a coincidence, by the way. The “Western media” — which, of course, is a made up thing anyway — isn’t sensationalizing anything. China is a police state. If you don’t believe it, come live here for a while. Western countries may well be getting worse, but for the nine billionth time, this is a blog about China. I want you to read that sentence again, and really let it sink in: This is a blog about China.

    @ scl: No, I didn’t say local things have to be extrapolated nationally. I SAID THAT IS WHAT SOME CHINESE PEOPLE ARE SAYING/DOING. And then I translated a bunch of comments where they said that. Still, feel free to go ahead and blame it on the Western media though; I’m sure those Chinese people I was quoting are just making it up because they’re getting funded by NED anyway…….eyeroll.

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  24. C. Custer.

    What you are trying to portray is the theme fits the story rather the story fits the theme, in this case, the theme is police brutality in China. Unfortunately, you don’t know the details of the story to see if the use of force is justified or not. If the person resists arrest and try to put up a fight, the use of force is necessary. Even if you got video of Rodney Style police beatdowns, you don’t have the full pictures because you don’t know what are the circumstances leading to this.

    Another recent case where the theme fits the story was debunked was to see if Bob Dylan was debunked. Western media like NY times, Chinese blogs, and human rights watch speculated that the Chinese government telling Bob Dylan what songs to play. This theme of censorship in China was debunked when Bob Dylan said that that was false.

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  25. @Pugster – Except that it is quite obvious that the spectators, who had seen the beating, believed that the beating wasn’t justified, and were willing to testify to that effect. Not only that, but a great number of Chinese commenters drew the same conclusion pretty much automatically. Is that good evidence that an unjustified beat-down occurred? Yes it is.

    And as I’m sure you are aware, bands playing in China (e.g., the Rolling Stones) have been asked to change songs/lyrics in the past. Bob Dylan wasn’t asked to change his set, and a lot of news media have reported this (more than reported the original rumour that he had been censored). No serious outlet reported the first story as anything other than a rumour, one which Dylan only denied in the last few days. Censorship in China was not “debunked”, only a rumour in this individual case.

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  26. @FOARP and C.Custer,

    I am glad you pointed out that a lot of Chinese internet commentators generalize the meaning of incidents.

    Not everyone is capable of discretion, or able to suppress their emotion. There is no exception for Chinese commentators. The rational thinking should be: what the hell goes on here? I hope the court will sort things out. I hope the perpetrator will be punished and the victim will be compensated. The police department should have higher standard and recruit more carefully. Sooner or later there will be protests if things are not getting better. I hope if there are protests, Chinese civil right will get better.

    The irrational thinking would be: why most policemen are thugs, why they hire so many psychopathic men? The only reason must be that the government wants to terrorize people! Protests will be futile! Let’s have a revolution!

    My opinion, which obviously differs from the Chinese government and a lot of Western commentators, is that the majority of Chinese will think rationally, despite a lot of them do not.

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  27. “… the Chengguan are infamous for their thug-life habits. ”

    I can imagine there are thuggish Chengguan/cops in China. There are unprofessional cops in other countries, too. The Chinese problem might be more severe than others, I don’t disagree. That said, fact is there are more thugs out there in the civilian population than in the law enforcements. There are very bad people out there and they are not cops. (Am I right, FOARP?)

    Not long ago, I saw on TV, A college student driving in a busy Taipei street. An ambulance was behind him with siren on, trying to rush a very sick person to the hospital.. That ‘thuggish’ young man simply refused to yield. A guy on a moped was signaling him to yield. The young thuggish SUV driver did not yield. Instead, he mid-fingered the guy on moped. The patient later died.

    What I am trying to say, Mr. Custer, is that China is a lot behind the advanced world in most areas. It is a developing country. It’s citizen quality is low. Proper education is badly needed. The government have been trying hard to improve everything. The content of your current posting did not surprise me one bit. When I said police brutality was rare in China, I was just teasing you. I know China no less than you, even though I have never lived there.

    The fact that you spent the time and effort to translate these stories into English makes me think you are trying hard to tell the English speaking world all the bad things about China. Obviously not many Chinese cops are reading your blog and consequently feeling they have to improve their behavior in the future. From what I read all along, it seems the only purpose of your postings has been to embarrass China. You are not trying to help China get better (even though you mentioned your family member is/are Chinese) … Please tell me I am wrong. (I hope I am wrong.)

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  28. You have been living in China for years now, Mr. Custer. I am so sure that you have some good things to say about China. Could you tell the world about them?

    “Can’t we all just get along?”

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  29. tc-

    “its citizen quality is low”

    ahahahah, do you really think that’s the problem in china- low quality citizens? if we’re really looking for anti-chinese sentiment here, that might count.

    “The government have been trying hard to improve everything.”

    ahahahhahahahhahahhaa…. ahahaha. So in your narrative, the poor government is just trying so hard to fix all the messes left by the low-quality chinese people? that sounds reasonable to you?!

    “From what I read all along, it seems the only purpose of your postings has been to embarrass China.”

    *laughs so hard he collapses, might actually die*

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  30. @ tc: OK, I’ll bite because I’ve got a little time left to kill on this lunch break. There are, of course, many things I like about China, although most of them are more personal than political. Obviously, Chinese language and culture are interesting to me — if I didn’t like China or was trying to make it worse, why would I have spent so much time studying it in college? Who on earth would put THIS amount of time into trying to make China worse? Honestly, as an American, why the hell would I care whether China even gets better or worse unless I liked China in the first place?

    The bottom line for me, and I think most expats will tell you the same, is that I keep coming back to China for the people (and the food). The Chinese people that I know personally are amazing, friendly, and fascinating to converse with. Beyond that, the “Chinese people” as a whole (netizens especially) consistently impress me with their creativity; I really get a lot of enjoyment out of watching political cartoons and 拍客 videos and learning the newest slang people are using. In the venues where they’re allowed to be creative, the results are always impressive.

    So why is everything I write on this blog so negative? A couple reasons. One is that as an American, my general feeling is that the first step to fixing a problem is to call attention to it. If something is already good, I have no interest in writing about it (generally) because it’s not interesting to me. If today is a sunny day, do you want to read an article about how today’s weather is great, or do you want to go outside and enjoy it? Problems, on the other hand, require that people know about them, and they require people to analyze them, before they can be solved. Hence, this blog is full of problems. People who want to read happy things about China can read the China Daily; I don’t think that is “news” or is even interesting (generally, there are some exceptions of course).

    I’m not trying to “embarrass” China because China is not a person, and the world is not some high-school party. What I’m trying to do is raise a bit of awareness about some of these problems that exist, and by translating show foreigners what some Chinese people are saying/thinking about them. I don’t think that embarasses anyone other than sometimes the government officials, and honestly, who cares? Are we all supposed to ignore reality so that the poor little fat men running the world’s largest country and swimming in pools of money don’t get their feelings hurt? Please.

    If something I post is embarrassing to “China” that is because “China” has embarrassed itself. But by China, I really mean the government. For example, police brutality isn’t really an embarrassment to China. It’s just embarrassing the people who are supposed to be in charge of those cops. The average Chinese person should feel angry about these cases, maybe, but not embarrassed.

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  31. @ tc: Quick add-on: I know that some Chinese people are embarrassed by this sort of news. Unless you’re responsible for something I don’t see any reason to be embarrassed about it, but to each his own. They’re welcome to feel embarrassed, but I’m not going to avoid talking about this stuff to spare anyone’s feelings.

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  32. @tc – FYI, Taipei is part of the “advanced world”, and I can vouch for the general quality of its citizens, as indeed I can for those on the mainland. Yes there are thugs in every country, yes, there are instances of police brutality in every country – but this is a blog about China.

    “I know China no less than you, even though I have never lived there.

    Ponder on this one a bit. You are claiming to know a place as well as someone who has lived and worked there for years, despite never having been there. Whilst I’ve met plenty of expats who didn’t know jack about the place where they lived, Custer is not one of these.

    “From what I read all along, it seems the only purpose of your postings has been to embarrass China”

    I can’t speak for Custer, but I know that this post does not “embarass China”. It does, however, embarass the chengguan and their superiors.

    And seriously, why on earth do you, who have never lived in China, presume that the only reason we discuss these issues is out of a desire to harm a country in which we lived for years? Why would anyone move to a country, learn the language, settle down etc. if they hated the place?

    Like

  33. Why are foreigners so fixated on problems that occur in China? Only Chinese themselves can fix it. As for foreigners, go to China make heaps of easy money, enjoy the ride, the girls and have a fat time. Who really cares about some shitty town in the north of China.

    Like

  34. Custer please promote me to “fascist pain moderator.” i’ll clean up these comments threads so fast your head will spin.

    i’m kinda joking, but kinda not. every comments thread here goes exactly the same way: you post something good, then before anyone can actually discuss it we have a bunch of non-sense posts that derail the entire thread. something about the NED, something about the anti-chinese western media, some implications of racism, embarrasing china, yadda yadda yadda.

    one (unsolicited) opinion: its time to start banning and deleting posts that are posting the exact same derails in every thread. if someone has something good to say, it stays. if someone has some logical fallacies and water-muddying to do, it disappears.

    Like

  35. @ J: That’s actually something I’ve been considering, deleting any post with demostrable logical fallacies. But I’d have to brush up on my fallacies (haven’t studied debate since HS) and I’m not sure how exactly it would work.

    I agree with you about the general feel of the comments. However, in implementing a different system, I want to implement something that’s fair, and not something that just silences anyone who I think disagrees with me. I don’t trust myself to be super objective without some kind of rule-based system in place.

    I would love to hear a proposal (or proposals) on how that could work, specifically, though. Like I said, it’s something I’ve been toying with in theory.

    Like

  36. “he consequences of this shift in national policy are not yet evident, but I expect them to be. This, I suspect, is one of the things about the internet that makes the government so nervous. ”

    Without doubt, the power of the internet to broadcast a message to the masses is what makes the Chinese government nervous. Nervous enough to build this crazy GFW, and soon to force registration of all netizens who posts stuff online. I think it’s good that people are using the internet to seek justice which the local media have overlooked (or are too afraid to touch). Once these issues have gone national you know that something would be done.

    On the other hand, I am still on the fence about mob justice in general. There are good reasons why even in the UK and some parts of the US filming police in action are illegal. I would be surprised if China doesn’t have similar laws though I don’t see too many applications of it. I can only hope that the internet mob will be served as more of an evolutionary force rather than a totally revolutionary one.

    Like

  37. “However, in implementing a different system, I want to implement something that’s fair, and not something that just silences anyone who I think disagrees with me. ”

    Here are two systems which I have came across often, but their implementations can vary:

    1) Thumbs up/down – This IMO is the most popular format. At some sites such as yahoo news, voting a person down has no consequences. At some sites such as joystiq, when voted down the posts themselves will become more transparent, and thus become harder to read. There are also sites when a post get too many thumbs down you will need to click on a button to see the post.

    2) Moderator promote system – This can be seen at slash.dot, nytimes, etc. Basically you have moderators who can promote good comments to be more prominent. For the most part this means that these posts will show up first in the threads regardless of the time they were posted. The question of course is how to be a moderator. Some systems use seniority, while in other systems most moderators are chosen by other moderators with the original moderator being the site owner.

    Some sites, such as Huffingontpost you would get a combination of the two systems. You would have both thumb up/down plus you get a moderator system where the preferred posts would show up first.

    Custer if you are going for a multi-person moderator system I would like to nominate Kai as one.

    Like

  38. A response from Officer Steven Taubenkibel;
    “On Thursday, May 19, the metro Transit Police on routine patrol at the U St. Metrorail station observed a patron in a wheelchair drinking an alcoholic beverage. The officers asked the patron to leave the area and he refused. The officers then attempted to issue the patron a citation and when the patron refused to comply with the issuance of a citation he was told that he would be placed under arrest. The patron resisted arrest which resulted in him falling out of his wheelchair. The patron was arrested for assault on the police officer and drinking in public.”

    I don’t know about you, I rather be facing these Chinese chengguans rather than some of these pigs.

    Like

  39. @pugster

    the vid depicts the same situation as Chengguans. The only difference is Chengguan is not the “law enforcer” They don’t even have a badge or a hypothetical license to use force in the event that they get resistance. The fact that these officers were doing their jobs and proceeded to arrest a person in a wheel chair whose abilities are questionable and whether their force was excessive is also debatable. From what I can tell this can easily be turned into an issue of white cops brutalizing black man in wheel chair. If I were their superiors and reviewing this footage they were more in their realm of using the right amount of force in addition to all the other information you have provided. Should they re-write the rules of engagement for certain people maybe, should they put more black cops in black areas to lessen the blow of racial profiling why not? Last time I check all over the US there are public intoxication laws in place. This guy was drinking in public, in wheel chair. At some point that person has to cross a street arresting him saved his life and someone else some grief of vehicular manslaughter. Whether you like it or not certain aspects of law enforcement is a great thing.

    Your preference to get beat by whose ever security agencies is ultimately your choice and I can see your choice is obvious because you wanna be hit back at the people with no guns (who wouldn’t) but the subject at hand is 1 that involves Chengguan in China, and Custer is not on some campaign to over throw the Chinese Government or make the world believe that China is this horrible place and no one should come and visit but its like a disclaimer for those considering what they about to embark in is not for everyone. If the officials would stop trying to push shit under the rug or ignoring the problem and actually spend more time improving them this wouldn’t happen and “harmony” can some what be achieved and Custer would have nothing to talk about.

    Like

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