Category Archives: Video

Watch Petition in Full on Youtube

This is less of a post and more of a PSA: Zhao Liang’s excellent documentary Petition (上访) is available on Youtube. I should note that this is probably an illegal upload of the film, but it is so difficult to find a legitimate copy of the film ((I did find this DVD box set with three of Zhao’s films, all of which are worth seeing, but it’s a PAL-only French import so it won’t work in many American DVD players)) that I thought I would call your attention to it anyway. But I highly encourage you to also buy a copy of it if you ever get a chance.

I had the pleasure of meeting someone involved with this film last year in Beijing and speaking with him for a little while about the experience of making it. The film is the result of work that spanned over a decade, and it was extremely difficult to put together, especially the scenes that included footage from within the petition offices, where cameras are most definitely not allowed. It is a work that was immensely difficult to produce, and the results are incredible if also highly depressing.

It’s not available on Youtube in good quality — again, buy the DVD if you can find it! — but it does have Chinese and English subtitles and the quality is plenty good enough to watch. If you have the time, it’s highly recommended.

(I should also note that I came across this thanks to a link on Twitter the other day, but now I can’t remember who it was that posted it! My apologies, but if that person sees this and lets me know, I’d be happy to update this post with a link.)

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Chengguan, Hard at Work

Another entry in the vein of illogical law enforcement. My wife passed this video along earlier today. It’s actually a couple months old now, but still making the rounds on Chinese social media, and it has racked up more than two million views.

Note: To be fair, I’m not entirely sure the men in this video are chengguan (city management officials), as the video isn’t clear enough to read anything on their uniforms, but they seem to be performing the duties of chengguan and are identified as chengguan in the comments, so let’s just assume they are.

http://player.youku.com/player.php/sid/XMzU4OTA3NzA0/v.swf

Nothing about this is surprising, of course, but it’s worth noting the the ridiculousness of this kind of “enforcement strategy,” which happens all across China with alarming frequency. Chengguan are tasked with keeping the city’s streets clean and ensuring that vendors are in the proper places, with the proper permits. Frequently, they’re not, and I do understand China’s desire to regulate this (in theory), but the practice often leaves much to be desired.

The kind of enforcement we see in this video doesn’t solve any problems. All it does is create problems. Where previously there was a calm woman on the street selling fruit, now there is an angry woman on the street, a small crowd of onlookers, and a huge mess because the chengguan decided to dump her fruit all over the sidewalk. The chengguan have effectively turned what was a regular street in China into a mess of emotion and spilled fruit. What has society gained from this?

Nothing, obviously. The chengguan don’t even gain anything personally, aside from the minimal ego boost that comes from bullying people you have some power over. It is a needless show of force, the desperate demonstration of an insecure bully who is terrified that if the people’s fear ever subsides for a moment they’re going to see just how pathetic he really is.

(Another sign of the times: in the video comments, some commenters have pointed out that these guys are actually quite restrained for chengguan; they may have stomped and dumped out her baskets, but at least they didn’t physically attack her. Disturbingly, this is enough to pass for ‘restraint’ these days.)

In Brief: “If You’re Happy and You Know it, Clap Your Hands”

This video has been floating around the Chinese internet for about a month now, and has accrued over 880,000 plays ((probably more, as it’s likely been reposted on other video services; the 880,000 count is just for this one Youku upload.)). It’s called “If You’re Happy and You Know it, Clap Your Hands,” and it’s another entry in the vein of satirical independent Chinese animation.

I don’t have time to translate it line for line, but the video and a basic summary are below.

http://player.youku.com/player.php/sid/XMzM5OTgwMjMy/v.swf

In the video, a teacher quizzes students with a series of questions. First, he asks if they know what the national emblem is used for (he points to an example of it on the 1 RMB note). They respond they do: you should run to buildings with the emblem on them whenever there’s an earthquake, since they’re the safest.

Then the teacher asks a math question: if an old lady falls down at 7:10pm, a man 200m away eating a hamburger sees it, the guy moves at 5m/sec, and the hospital is 300m from the accident site, how long will it take him to take her to the hospital. The students all do the math, but it turns out they’re wrong, the correct answer is never, because “anyone smart enough to buy a hamburger would never go help an old woman who has fallen down.”

Then, playing off the “artistic youth/dumb youth” meme, we learn that a dumb youth would kill the old lady (accidentally), and the artistic youth would just take a picture of her misfortune to post on Weibo.

Next, the teacher asks students to count the people in a photo of a luxury car. There are three sexy models in front of the car, and all the students answer three, but they’re wrong again — they’ve failed to notice that there’s a person’s arm sticking out from under the car’s rear wheel.

The following question concerns the makeup of cooking oil, and you’re probably already guessing the punchlines at this point. It’s gutter oil.

At this point, they’re interrupted by a bee, which the teacher kills, saying “this is what happens when you harm the motherland’s flowers!”

Then they get onto a bus, which crashes and breaks into pieces. All the students are killed save one, who is gravely injured. The video ends with the teacher’s ghostly voice trying to explain why students need to learn to face dangers in society (“so that later you can face more dangerous challenges”) and then the injured, armless student trying to clap along to “If You’re Happy and You Know it, Clap Your Hands.”

The whole video is worth a watch if you speak Chinese and are familiar with net memes, as there are a bunch of other ones in there I didn’t include in this summary (and probably some references that went over my head, too).

The Siege of Wukan, Part IV: Seeds of Siege

(Previously: Part I, Part II, Part III)

Followers of of me on Twitter will be aware that of the two videos I mentioned in Part III of my Wukan coverage, I was able to successfully download one before the links were deleted.

That video is now available in full via my server here. It’s all in Chinese (mostly Cantonese with traditional character subtitles). The file is a 1.1 GB WMV file. You can also download via a mirror here thanks to @ptrebor.

Alternately, I made a shortened, edited version of the video which you can stream here. If you find Youtube loads more smoothly, you can see the video on Youtube here. Additional versions (a version without the music) coming tomorrow.

In other Wukan news, this Chinese news report from late last night indicates that some Wukan officials are being investigated by the Party for misconduct. It’s an indication that the Central government may be planning to side, at least to some extent, with the villagers.

“Nothing to My Name”, the Train Crash Version

Cui Jian’s song “Nothing to My Name” is perhaps the best-known Chinese rock song of all time. It might also be considered one of the first, given that it was released in 1986. It quickly grew popular, and was adopted by the students as an anthem of sorts during the Tiananmen protests in 1989. In fact, Cui Jian even performed the song live for the protesters.

In the wake of the train accident in Wenzhou, it seems netizens have turned back to this decades old song to vent. Uploaded to Tudou a few days ago, this video — which is currently being spread around Weibo — is a very well done version of that song, with new lyrics that address the Wenzhou crash. It’s a fairly impressive job; most of the lyrics use the same rhyming sounds as the original song.

http://www.tudou.com/v/9lsE69x7n7Q/v.swf
(link)

As of this posting, the video has over 400,000 views. Update: The original video I linked has now been deleted (presumably by Tudou), however, the video has been re-uploaded this morning; see above. If that doesn’t work, try these links, as it has also spread to other sites: Sina, Sina. Those appear to be being deleted, so your best bet long term is just to watch it on Youtube:

If you want to search for it on Chinese sites, the easiest way is to search for the phrase 一无所有 动车版.

Translation

This is a pretty rough translation. There are subtitles in the video, so I haven’t bothered to retype all the Chinese here.

Opening monologue: Railway Ministry, don’t tell me the reason for this accident is rain and lightning. You’re standing in front of the cameras all sanctimonious and graceful, but behind it, how much disgraceful, stinking, bloody, undisguised corruption is there?

Singing begins:
The people are asking over and over,
How can the Railway officials be so ballsy,
Why did they stop the rescue operations,
after just a single day?

The passengers needed your help,
They didn’t need your excuses,
But you’re just evading [the questions],
Speaking without thinking.

Oh, you look like you’re putting on a show,
Do you really feel guilty?

The earth under our feet is trembling,
The tears on our faces are flowing,
What was that that fell [from the train car in the video]
And was captured by the camera ((A reference to the Youku video that showed an object falling from the car.))?

Why was the list of victims not published?
Why were you burying the engine car of the train?
Is it that in your eyes,
The lives of the people are more worthless than pigs or dogs?

Oh, how much is a life worth?
Is a few hundred thousand enough?

Spoken interlude: When they took the body, they found signs of life. This proves that at the beginning some people were still alive. Perhaps at that time, my wife and my family members were still alive. Why didn’t you come to rescue us? The bodies of my wife and my mother in law were still in the car when it was taken off the overpass; they weren’t trying to save our family members, we feel they were just trying to clear the tracks so trains could continue service. Because they said last night that the railway was operating normally again. The bodies weren’t [carefully] extracted from the wreckage, they were dug out with an excavator! In this project, even if they were already dead, you can’t just use a backhoe to handle them!

Singing returns
I’m telling you I’ve put up with it for a long time,
I’m telling you my final demand,
I’m tightening up my fists,
And setting out to find this scumbag,
My heart is trembling,
My blood is pumping,
What will you bring out to console me,
To console my deceased friends and family?

Oh, how much is a life worth?
Is a few hundred thousand enough?

Ending titles: “This video is in remembrance of the N victims who died in the 7/23 train crash. July 27, 2011.

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.

The Real Threat

While the central government is busy rounding up everyone who might have once glanced at Ai Weiwei, and simultaneously instituting what appears to be some kind of “no lawyer left behind” detention policy, the rest of China is mostly ignoring it. That’s not a surprise, of course; it isn’t being reported in the media aside from the occasional screeching prose of the state-media’s shrillest news organs, which no one reads anyway.

Whether Ai is guilty or not; whether these other lawyers and writers and “dissidents” are guilty or not, they aren’t an actual threat to China or to CCP rule. Neither was the Jasmine Revolution, which — shock! — wasn’t orchestrated by any of the people they’re now rounding up anyway.

What could be a threat is the growing tension between the privileged and the non-privileged classes, the haves and the have-nots, the daguanguiren ((达官贵人)) and the laobaixing ((老百姓)). There is, at present, no push for revolution, no great Westernized uprising. There’s nothing to make a sexy headline out of on CNN. What there is, though, is bubbling dissatisfaction just below the surface of everyday life that bursts out in spurts when the inequities of society make themselves unavoidably obvious.

At present, this happens mostly with car accidents.

Everyone knows, of course, about the Li Gang incident, but there have been many like it, and when conditions are right, what starts as a traffic accident quickly becomes a “mass incident.”

Take for example, this incident in Changchun:
http://www.tudou.com/v/ABid6Fzss48/v.swf
Essentially, what happened is that a police officer driving his own car got angry with an old woman who wouldn’t get out of his way. He eventually got out of the car, argued with the old woman, and then started to beat her, grabbing her by the hair and punching her in the face, according to an interview she gave that’s excerpted at the end of the video. The old woman’s daughter came over and he hit her, too. That was when passers-by started to gather, and they were not amused.

Watch the video. At the 1:00 mark, the narrator says “Rationally, everyone [jumped in] to prevent the [police]man’s crude behavior.” Then the video cuts abruptly to a shot of a mob going absolutely apeshit on the police officer’s car (which he, by that point, was wisely hiding inside). Even after police arrived, they kept smashing the car, and began chanting “Apologize, apologize!” Several scuffles with police occurred. Hours later, after police unsuccessfully tried to get the mob to disperse, the police finally got the man out of his car and into a waiting police van (2:19, note the people in the background still fighting to break through the police lines and attack him).

Of course, there’s more to this than privileged versus commoner (he was also beating an elderly woman, which wouldn’t win him many friends regardless of the prevailing mood of the time in any society). But the old woman he beat puts it in terms of haves and have-nots, and apparently so did the policeman. She says he told her it didn’t matter if he beat her to death or not, he could afford to pay the compensation money. She also said he looked down on thelaobaixing, the common people.

This is, of course, an isolated incident. But this kind of thing happens a lot, and moreover, it obviously speaks to deeper issues. Unsurprisingly, it spread quickly across the internet, and has been reposted many times already. This posting on 56.com, for example, has already been viewed over half a million times. So has another posting of the same video on the same site. This one, on 6.com, has over 600,000 viewings.

What’s most telling about this video is not the comments, which call for the offending officer’s head on a platter, and many of which also condemn police officers and public servants in general for their increasing lack of concern for the common people. No, what’s most interesting about this video is that it’s from early December 2010, but it’s still being passed around on Chinese social networks today.

These stories keep getting passed around beyond their news shelf life, I suspect, because they are tapping into an increasingly common feeling of anger and exploitation among those who really are laobaixing. The story may be from December, but the feeling is as widespread today as it was then, probably moreso.

Are people about to take to the streets and launch a second Communist revolution to overthrow the new bourgeoisie? Absolutely not. But instead of harassing innocent dissidents and their lawyers, China’s leadership would do well to pay more attention to these issues.

Ai Weiwei may prove to foreigners that there’s no rule of law in China, but most Chinese don’t know or care. What they care about are cases like this, and little by little, the police and the businessmen and the chengguan and the officials — all agents of the government and the Party — seem to be doing their best to drill home the message: we do not care about you.