Tag Archives: rebellion

The Siege of Wukan, Part III: Making Martyrs

(See Part I, Part II)

UPDATE 3: With regard to the video links below, my connection to the first file was dropped, but I was able to watch the first few minutes. It appears to be a documentary of sorts on Wukan; however, my file ended while the film was still introducing the town’s history. I’m now trying to download both files again.

UPDATE 2: Just spotted the following weibo post from one of the Wukan connections. Not sure exactly what it’s referring to, but it was just posted a few minutes ago:

Just now a person [or people ((Chinese doesn’t always distinguish between singular and plural, and there’s not enough context here to know which was meant))] from the government came to our school and forced students to sign something pertaining to the selling off of the Biguiyuan land. When the villagers learned of it they became agitated and sprayed them [the government person or people] with urine. Running dogs!

UPDATE 1: Information in the first paragraph corrected. Additionally, I have downloaded the second video file linked below, but get an error with any software I try to open it with. The first file is still downloading. Also of note: Malcolm Moore’s explanation of why they opted to leave Wukan (again, I think you probably need a G+ account to see that).

Malcolm Moore has left Wukan. To my knowledge, there are now no reporters in the village. Based on Weibo posts from Wukan residents, it appears there is at least one Hong Kong reporter still in Wukan.

Surprisingly, though, many of the Weibo accounts I found yesterday remain open. I suspect this is in large part because their networks are quite small. None of them are verified users, and most have only a few dozen or a couple hundred followers. It may be difficult for Sina to find them.

In any event, their posts over the past few days have elucidated what a crucial error the government made in detaining five of the villagers’ leaders and in likely killing ((According to two Chinese media reports I spotted yesterday, the government claims two different parties have examined the body and determined he wasn’t beaten to death, but they have failed to determine why he did die, which makes me quite suspicious. Meanwhile, Xue’s family — who was needed to identify the body — says his body was covered with wounds)) Xue Jinbo.

It’s no secret that Xue has become a martyr in the village, and in almost all the Weibo posts I’ve seen, he and the others who were arrested are being referred to as heroes [英雄]. Moreover, the government’s attempts to propagandize their detention and use them to quell the villagers is, if Weibo is any indication, a complete failure.

Take, for example, the video below. In it, Zhang Jiancheng (one of the five village leaders arrested) meets with his sister (according to the video’s timestamp, this happened on Tuesday afternoon). In the video, after a strange moment when the audio completely drops out, Zhang tells his sister he’s being treated well, he hasn’t been beaten, the food is great, the government is good, and that the village should “trust the leaders” to resolve this problem. In short, he says exactly what the government would want him to say.

http://www.tudou.com/v/mRU9K4Vxyqc/v.swf

So, how is this video being interpreted by folks in Wukan? Here’s a quote from one Wukan user I’ve also seen retweeted by several others. ((To make finding these people more difficult for Sina’s censors, I will not provide the original Chinese text))

Ruichao, Jiancheng, and Liehong [three of the arrested “heroes”] have given us words with hidden meanings, and teach us that in a time of crisis you must be clever. Some of our Wukan heroes have been arrested and treated maliciously by the government; from their words we can tell that the government is treating them ‘specially’, and is also telling them to memorize lines [to recite on camera] but they have a secret understanding with us, [so] they speak calmly. The clothes they’re wearing cover up the cuts and bruises all over their bodies.

Although personally I found Jiancheng’s performance suspicious myself — his “lines” were a little too perfect, and why did the sound drop out when his sister first arrived — I’m inclined to suspect that at this point, there’s nothing any of these men could say while in police custody that would lead the villagers to surrender. There is simply zero trust in the government there, and that people are being tortured and beaten by the police seems to be a baseline assumption.

So, even as the government attempts to use the arrestees for propaganda purposes within the village (see the video above) and outside it (see the news stories about the “five criminal suspects” arrested in Wukan), Wukan villagers are hailing the men as heroes.

I will update this story or post additional stories as the situation warrants. One of the Wukan users has posted two video download links to his Weibo account, and I am currently attempting to download them, but given the speed of my internet, it may be some time before I can properly see what they are.

If you have a faster connection than I and would like to download the videos for yourself, here at the links. I suspect they’ll be deleted soon. I have no idea what they contain, but the user who posted them requested that they be spread and reposted. His weibo post with that request has since been deleted, so the links will likely follow soon.
Part 1 1.1 GB (appears to be a documentary of sorts on Wukan)
Part 2 213 MB (content unclear, file wouldn’t open)

The Siege of Wukan, Part II: Weibo Impressions

(This post will likely be updated repeatedly throughout the day tomorrow, so do check back frequently or follow @ChinaGeeks on Twitter for notifications about updates.)

UPDATE 1: Added video (h/t to CDT), see bottom of post.

Earlier today I wrote a long post about the Wukan protests and siege, which was based primarily on these two articles by Malcolm Moore. If you haven’t already, please read them both now:

Inside Wukan: the Chinese village that fought back

Rebel Chinese village of Wukan ‘has food for ten days’

As I have no way of getting to, let alone into, Wukan, I began to search Sina Weibo for updates from people in that area. Unsurprisingly for a town of more than 10,000 people, there are plenty of them on Weibo. As discusses yesterday, some of their accounts have been deleted, and specific posts about the protests and the siege are being deleted rapidly. But there’s still plenty of interesting stuff worth pointing out.

First, as to how we got here, one user posted this image from earlier in the year, before police had been driven out of the village. In it, you can clearly see (despite the regrettably small size limitation imposed by Weibo) several different instances of uniformed police and what appear to be soldiers beating citizens on the streets, in broad daylight.

Another thing that has struck me reading through these accounts ((I’m not going to link any of them as I don’t want to tip off Sina’s censors, but they’re really not too difficult to find if you want to check for yourself.)) is that these people are not dissidents, at least not in the same sense as someone like Liu Xiaobo or Ai Weiwei. Most of the Weibo accounts I found belonged to young people, and interspersed with the political messages about their hometown and what’s happening there, there are normal posts about all the things you would expect: the weather, school, cute girls (or boys), funny animations, etc.

I feel certain that somewhere after this is over, there will be people who will be looking to write these people off the way they write off any dissident activity in China. But these are not, by and large, dissidents, or even people who seem to be particularly politically inclined, from what I can tell of their Weibo histories. They’re just people who’ve been forced into an extreme political situation and have chosen to stand up for themselves rather than backing down. Good for them. Don’t let anyone tell you they’re being funded by the NED or being misled by Western propagandists. That’s bullshit.

They also are very aware of the thin ice they’re walking on. It seems clear the decision to rise up was not one they came to lightly. Rather, they were pushed to it, it seems, by the wanton greed and utter stupidity of the local authorities.

Being particularly frightened by how that stupidity might well play out as this situation moves toward some kind of resolution, I was moved by this weibo post from one young man in Wukan. He wrote:

It’s dangerous here. I want to get out.

Still, their collective spirit appears to still be strong. Here’s a video from a few days ago; according to the description it says that the same video was also uploaded to Sina and deleted in less than an hour.

The Siege of Wukan

UPDATE 4: Malcolm Moore has posted a new story on this, which I highly recommend you read in its entirety right here. Also added another image from Weibo.

UPDATE 3: Additional images from Weibo added, section on Weibo censorship added at the end of the post.

UPDATE 2: One of the accounts posting images from inside Wukan — a young man who lives there — has been closed by Sina. Clearly, they’re taking this pretty seriously. I know of two other Weibo accounts from users inside Wukan, but I wonder how quickly their accounts will be closed, too. Also, Malcolm Moore tweeted that the villagers estimate they have food enough left for ten days.

UPDATE 1: Malcolm Moore has posted some more details on his time in the village — and how he got in there — here (you may need a Google Plus account to see that. I have also added an additional large image to the selection of photos from Weibo.

wukan-rebellionThe Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore published an explosive story today about Wukan, the village in southern China that is now in open rebellion against the local government. This story has been developing for several months, but Moore’s piece from inside the blocked-off town (no idea how he’s managed that) is one of the best and most comprehensive pieces I’ve seen yet. I highly recommend that you click this link right now and read the entire story. I’ll wait here.

Ok, finished? Great. Beyond that, Moore has been live updating this morning via his Twitter account, posting additional photos and information. As of this writing, the most interesting of those is this tidbit, from around 11 AM this morning:

The rumour in Wukan is CCTV may be coming on Dec 16, so the police may try and reassert control before then

I don’t think I need to explain the ways in which this event is amazing, and I mean that in the literal sense of the word. Anyone with a funtional brain and half an eye on the Chinese media is aware that local government land grabs are a huge source of discontent, but if you’d told me a few months ago that a Chinese town would band together, run the local officials out of town, resist a force of 1,000 police officers intent on entering the town again (but, thankfully, not willing to use lethal force to do so, at least not yet), establish their own makeshift government, and keep the whole thing running even this long, I would have told you you were nuts.

Before we go any further, I want to get this out of the way: no, this is not the first spark in some nationwide rebellion that will see the national government overthrown. In fact, it’s not even a rebellion against the central government, as you can tell from the pleas for help from Beijing in Moore’s article.

Still, it puts Beijing in an awfully interesting position. As I see it, they have three basic options:

  1. Come to the rescue of the down, declare the local government officials corrupt, put them on trial and restore order peacefully. This is, I suspect, exactly what the people in Wukan want.
  2. Come to the rescue of the officials and provide them enough manpower to completely crush the rebellion. This would be easy, but would attract a lot of negative attention internationally, and there’s a risk of it leaking online domestically, too.
  3. Do nothing for the time being, and see if the officials can regain control on their own, or if the rebellion spreads.

The last option seems by far the most likely to me, which is good and bad news for the protesters in Wukan. No help is coming from Beijing, but at least that means the PLA probably isn’t coming either.

Of course, the central government isn’t really doing nothing, as mentions of Wukan
are being scrubbed from the media and deleted online. As you would expect, searching for “Wukan” on Weibo gives you the classic “According to the relevant laws, these results can’t be displayed” message. But weibo is a tough thing to keep completely clean, and there are some folks giving updates from inside the town. Here, for example, are some photographs from the past few days that I found on Sina Weibo:

wukan-rebellion

wukan-siege

How exactly the siege will play out isn’t yet clear, but I’ll be keeping as close an eye on it as possible, and if you’re not already following Malcolm Moore, that’s something you’re going to want to do. I truly hope this situation can be resolved in a way that gives justice to the villagers — especially the family of the deceased — without further bloodshed, but I’m not sure how likely that is.

If the police do attempt to enter the village again, I’d guess they’ll be using something a bit more serious than tear gas. And the villagers may not have the firepower to compete with guns, but that doesn’t mean they’re not trying. Another update from Malcolm Moore around noon reads:

I’m sitting on a balcony, looking over the village, and above a tidy pile of steel-tipped bamboo spears.

Censorship

Citizens of Wukan are attempting to spread news of their movement via Weibo, but unsurprisingly, posts and accounts are being deleted with great speed. The account through which I found several of the photos above has already been entirely deleted by Sina — attempting to access it suddenly returns a “user does not exist” error. The pages of other Weibo users in Wukan look an awful lot like this young man’s page, in which every single thing he’s retweeted over the past few days has since been deleted:

deleted

In addition, at least one Wukan resident was seen complaining on Weibo that Tencent had shuttered his QQ profile, presumably because it included information about what’s happening in Wukan.

[First image via the Telegraph]