Tag Archives: Violence

Guest Post: A Violent Side

From the Beijing News about a patient who attacked his doctor.

The following is a guest post by Elliot Ward.

A spate of recent stories points to part of China’s modern conundrum where seething frustration sometimes erupts in unsettling violence.

One story (Chinese) going around Beijing recently is of a patient who viciously attacked his doctor with a knife, leaving her in serious condition, but alive. The attack was apparently revenge for her failure to cure his throat cancer. To make things more complicated, the attacker had initiated a malpractice lawsuit against the hospital in 2007 and was frustrated that he hadn’t received a ruling and his case was slated for indefinite recess.

It seems like remarkably misdirected anger for someone to attack their doctor, but it’s not an unknown phenomenon here. A quick search revealed several other recent stories (all Chinese) of patients violently attacking their doctors when they didn’t get better. In one case, a man who had received treatment for an STD killed his doctor and then jumped out a window to his death when the treatment didn’t work.

The other story that caught my eye this week is of a fight on a train, where after a seating dispute a passenger was beaten to death by railway staff. That even railway employees are unable to restrain themselves from violence is startling. People getting angry is not surprising, but the extent of the violence over such a seemingly small matter is.

It’s tempting to think of these as isolated, sensationalized incidents, but there is a steady stream of dramatic violence in the news here. Last year there was the series of unstable middle-aged men attacking pre-school children. Then there’s the story last week about the man who kept six women in his basement as sex slaves, ultimately killing two of them.

Some of the violence is so absurd it’s hard to understand, but a lot of the incidents have common themes, like attacks on doctors. For example, one of the regular themes is the self-righteous violence of the privileged, often involving traffic disputes. The most famous recent incident is probably that of Li Gang’s son, who stabbed a woman to death after hitting her with his car [struck two college students with his car and then attempted to flee the scene -ed.] last year. When confronted by passersby the guy apparently said, “My father is Li Gang,” invoking his powerful father to avoid punishment. Two incidents this month even prompted David Bandurski at China Media Project to write an article on the subject.

Then there’s the theme of stress induced suicides. This week’s entry is the story of 3 elementary school girls who attempted suicide apparently as an escape from too much homework. The famous entries in this category are the Foxconn suicides last year and a few self-immolations to protest forced land acquisition.

Another theme is police violence, most famously the illegal detentions and beatings that prompted a high level investigation and the closure of pretrial detention centers around the country a few years back. More common however are reports of special city security teams, or Cheng guan, beating up street vendors.

Perhaps the best blanket interpretation is to chalk it all up to the stresses of a fast changing society. High pressure, competition, a sense of entitlement, frustration—people can only take so much before they crack. Of course, China is far from the only country with incidents of shocking violence (see any of a number of shootings in the US for example), but it’s fair to say: China has a violent side.

Elliot Ward blogs regularly at chinaexperiment.wordpress.com.

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.

In Brief: Behind the Crackdown on Foreign Journalists

Members of international media in China have been intimidated, detained and beaten while reporting on the ‘strolling protests’, inspired by revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East, in major Chinese cities over the past few weekends. The current crackdown draws criticisms from the international community, including the US, European Union and Amnesty International, and is an abrupt departure from the friendly climate during and after the 2008 Olympics, when regulations on foreign reporters were relaxed.

What makes China so bold as to taint its international image? A recent piece from Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao, translated in full below, explains.

Translation

To foreign journalists in China, the difference between Spring 2008 and Spring 2011 is great. In mainland parlance, the former is ‘as warm as Spring’, while the latter is ‘as cold and ruthless as the winter.’

The honeymoon period between Beijing and foreign journalists is short. Now is the most tense period since 1989. If Beijing was humble and sincere toward foreign journalists during the Olympics, then today it is angry and disturbed. Judging from the Foreign Ministry spokenswoman Jiang Yu arguing with Western journalists, official mouthpieces’ open accusation of foreign media’s ‘false reporting’, to Beijing Information Office Director-General Wang Hui’s mocking of foreign journalists looking for Jasmine as ‘drawing water with a bamboo basket’ – all in vain – we can see that the Chinese government is unflinchingly merciless.

According to Beijing standard, that the Western media vilifying and demonizing China has been true for years. How come Beijing is so angry this time round?

First, China has become stronger. Those in charge think that they don’t need to consider China’s international image any more. ‘Go our way, whatever the others may say.’ Nationalism is especially strong in recent years, with ‘angry youths’ demonstrating a louder and tougher voice toward ‘foreign devils’.

Then, although mainland media were subject to several purges recently, they still continue to breach the boundary, showing their tendency to defy authority. The recent ‘fight fake news’ campaign represents a tightened grip on the media by the government. Moreover, the government suspects that some mainland journalists have secret communications with their foreign counterparts. Therefore, the crackdown on foreign journalists serves as a warning to mainland ones. Once the red line is drawn, mainland media will voluntarily obey. Amid such stirs, no one would want to stand out.

Since the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo last year, foreign correspondents in Beijing have become more active, which annoys the government. But at the time, they have real targets to go after (Liu Xia and other dissidents). Today, they are randomly stationed at Wangfujing, without any concrete targets. This, coupled with the ambiguous attitude of Western nations toward the Jasmine Revolutions in North Africa, triggers the merciless crackdown on Western journalists.

 

Guo Degang and China’s Weird Celebrity Standards

Guo Degang, if you don’t already know, is a famous Chinese xiangsheng comedian who has recently found himself embroiled in a bit of a scandal involving one of his students and a BTV reporter who the student punched for entering Guo’s home uninvited. Guo then made remarks during a show that caused more of a stir, calling his student “a national hero” and disparaging BTV.

The reporter in question, Zhou Wenfu, recorded the entire incident via a camera, and that clip has now been posted to the internet in its entirety:

http://player.youku.com/player.php/sid/XMTk0OTY1MjQ4/v.swf

For those who aren’t interested in watching all of it (it’s nearly an hour long), it very clearly shows Guo’s apprentice punching the BTV reporter. But it also shows the reporters entering Guo’s house apparently without permission — they do knock, but then immediately open the door and step inside. The reporters also lie repeatedly about whether or not they are filming, saying several times that they won’t record video even though their camera is recording the entire time.

Reactions on the internet have been mixed. Some, of course, are calling for Guo’s head on a platter, but others question how much he even had to do with the event. This blog post, for example, takes aim at the demands that Guo apologize with fierce satire. In a fake “apology letter” from Guo himself, the author writes,

With regards to who should apologize: When the event happened, I wasn’t there, the person who beat the reporter was a student of mine named Li. He has already apologized, so at first I thought it wasn’t a big deal, but later legal experts told me that I was the attacker’s master, and a public figure, and more importantly, the incident happened at my home, so I can’t avoid my own responsibility.

When put that way, I get it. Although my apprentice is already 18, so when he makes mistakes even his own father isn’t responsible for them, I guess that in China someone’s teacher has more responsibility for them than their parents. Otherwise, why would people always curse the parents and teachers when students have a problem? So, I should apologize.

When put that way, I also understand why they had to remove the governor of Shanxi over coal mining accidents, because the coal mine bosses are not public figures, but the governor is! After the first accident, fire the town mayor, then after the second fire the county leader, after the third fire the city’s mayor and after the fourth fire the governor! Although after the fifth and six accidents, I’m not sure who should be fired. So, my student isn’t a public figure, but I am, of course I should apologize. I expect if it happens again I won’t be able to apologize even if it want to, it will but up to a public figure of a higher authority than me. So I must treasure this opportunity.

Additionally, when it’s put that way, I understand why the Japanese have never been apologetic when we curse them even though they killed all those people in Nanjing. They must be thinking that Nanjing is in China; if something happens on China’s land then China must also accept half of the responsibility! Of course, whether or not the Japanese should apologize isn’t what I want to talk about here; it is I who should apologize.

Regarding who to apologize to: there was only one person, a reporter, who was beaten, but the public is very angry and there are all kinds of people denouncing me and trying to teach me what I should do. It looks like just apologizing to that reporter is not enough to ease the public’s wrath; therefore, I solemnly announce that I apologize to everyone from all walks of life in our society.

The post goes on from there, but you’ve probably gotten the general idea. If you can read Chinese, the rest of it is rather amusing.

Unsurprisingly, the scandal and Guo’s comments on it attracted a firestorm from the Chinese domestic media, who by and large took this as another attack on one of their own. While I’m not sure it’s the same as some other recent events, it’s easy to understand the attitude. Which leads, inevitably, to a lot of editorials that sound like this:

This incident should serve as a timely reminder for other celebrities to mind their manners. This may strike stars as unfair. After all, they may ask, why should they always have to behave better than ordinary folks? Why do luminaries have to come off as shiny and squeaky-clean all the time?

Well, simply because it comes with the territory. Stars benefit a lot from being publicly recognizable and popular, but they do have a certain responsibility to set a good example that their fans can follow unflinchingly.

I understand where this attitude comes from. Nor is it my intention to be an advocate for arrogant entertainment figures who use their status to gain things unfairly, or just to abuse others. However, if the past few years have shown us anything, it’s that even China’s “squeaky-clean” celebs aren’t, and regular celebrities are worse. The era of the celebrity as role model is dead — I suspect this happened right around the same time the 24-hour news cycle was born — and TMZ has been dancing on its grave for years now. China might as well give up. I suspect Lei Feng was the last perfect celebrity China will ever see. ((As a sidenote, looking for a link to Lei Feng led me in a roundabout way to this, an internet meme so old it predates my interest in China and, in fact, my owning a computer to watch it on. But it’s pretty entertaining, and obviously the song (from 1995) was quite popular, at least among Northeasterners. Mrs. ChinaGeeks, who was sitting on the floor playing Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor on my phone when I started playing the video, was able to sing along without even looking up.))

Moreover, while in Guo Degang’s case it seems like pretty much everyone involved is obnoxious and the actual problem isn’t that serious, this odd fixation on having perfect celebrities leads people astray when something real goes wrong, as I argued a few weeks ago in this piece in the Global Times.

Should celebrities be held to a higher standard than regular people? Should they really be held responsible when companies they represent make terrible, cancer-causing mistakes? I think that at least in the latter instance, we probably ought to forget about the celebrities entirely and focus on the actual issue. But feel free to convince me otherwise!

Dark Days for Chinese Journalists

Even as Evan Osnos was writing about the beating of Fang Xuanchang, an editor at Caijing magazine, renowned investigative journalist Wang Keqin was posting on his blog about the beating of another Chinese journalist, this time a CCTV reporter in Shanxi province.

Translation

On July 7th, a villager from the Kuchi Reservoir area of Yuncheng, Shanxi, reported to this newspaper: “On the afternoon of July 5th, a CCTV reporter conducting interviews in the Kuchi Reservoir [area] was beaten, and his camera was smashed.”

Our reporter got a call through to the Yuncheng Yanhu district PSB branch, and the female officer who answered the phone reported: “We have already accepted this case, a reporter was beaten, and we have already filed it [as a case].”

Reporter: “Was a camera smashed?”

Female officer: “I am not clear on that, you’ll have to go through the proper procedures before we can provide you with detailed information.”

Next, our reporter contacted the superintendent of the Kuchi Reservoir, the board of management of the Yuncheng New Airport district. The relevant manager, Du Baoyan, said over the phone: “Yeah, something did happen, it’s not a big problem. There was a little friction, I’m not clear on the details, but the PSB has already intervened.”

After this, a member of […] the board of management staff told us, “On that day, a CCTV reporter was on Mingqing First Street […] conducting interviews, [then he/she] was beaten and the camera was smashed.”

Comments

Obviously, there aren’t a lot of details yet on this case, so it’s a bit premature to pass judgement. And the fact that this happened right around the same time as the beating of a Caijing editor is almost certainly coincidental. Still, it hammers home how dangerous being a journalist in China can be even when you work for a media outlet as official as CCTV.

“Hitting Others’ Cars, Beating People”

Via Zhaomu’s blog, an account of chengguan attacking and beating traffic police in Hankou:

Translation

“That group of people was very fierce, after beating the traffic police, they said they were going to kill me!” a PSB officer told a reporter yesterday afternoon […] remembering the event, he still feels afraid.

He said it happened the night of the 20th at around 9:45: “An upscale white car crashed into the proprietor’s bus, and were discovered as they planned to leave.” In the gateway to the district, their car was blocked by the PSB. After a while, people came from the upscale car and a similar-looking van; they came to the sentry post and tried to force open the railing [that was blocking their car in]. PSB [officers] stopped them again. “There were no markings on that car, but “chengguan” was written on the side of the van,” according to a PSB officer who was there.

When chengguan come out, no one dares oppose
"When chengguan come out, no one dares oppose"

At this time, a black car stopped behind the chengguan van, and out of this car came a uniformed traffic police officer. After consulting with the PSB officers, he pointed to the chengguan car and indicated they should accept [the way the PSB] dealt with [the situation].

“They started arguing, and four or five people got out of the chengguan vehicle and started pushing the traffic policeman.” An eyewitness said the people from the chengguan van forced the traffic policeman into a corner of the sentry post and began to kick and beat him. They also tore off his shoulder loop, and smashed his walkie-talkie. “They beat [him] for five or six minutes.”

[…]

The reporter gathered that the traffic policeman who was beaten was the vice president of the Wuhan traffic department (river bank region) Chen Jianhua. After Chen was sent to the hospital and examined, it was discovered that there were many external injuries and several large swollen bumps on his head.

[…]

According to the reports of PSB officers from that district, after the assault, the chengguan forced their way into the sentry post and pushed down the button [to release the bar that was blocking their car in], then quickly drove away. They ran [but] one slower person was caught by Chen Jianhua. Soon after, the People’s Police came and quickly took him away.

Jianghan District, Evergreen St.’s office in charge of chengguan confirmed the incident was entirely true. He said that there were eight chengguan on the scene that day, and that except for one named Yang, all seven had cooperated and six have already been arrested by the police. He admitted that the car causing the trouble was from the chengguan department.

[…]

“When changing vehicles, the [chengguan] also changed drivers several times,” said an eyewitness. When the conflict was happening, he said that many of those doing the beating smelled strongly of alcohol […] that night, the other seven [chengguan had been] at Yang’s house drinking, but this has not been confirmed by the official department.

Beating Highlights Racial Tensions in China

Earlier today, ChinaSMACK posted a translation of a popular topic on several Chinese forums: “Hui Minority Beats Lanzhou Chengguan Onto Knees Crying“. Their translation is excellent, and we suggest you read it thoroughly, however, direct quotations on this site are our original translations unless otherwise noted.

The short version of the story is this: chengguan (presumably ethnically Han) came into a Hui minority area and started bullying street vendors, as they are wont to do. They threw food and tipped over stalls. A crowd began to gather, and when a few people started to attack the chengguan captain, most of the other police officials realized there were too many people in the crowd for them to deal with and fled, leaving the captain to fend for himself.

The captain was surrounded and beaten repeatedly. Food was thrown at him, and he was cursed by the crowd as well. Apparently several people said he should be beaten to death, and he began to plead for his life, saying, “Big brothers, grandpas, I was wrong, please stop beating me.” [translation via ChinaSMACK]

Apparently, the crowd kept growing and remained large as the original post’s author left the scene, so it’s unclear how the situation was resolved or if it even has been resolved. The situation in and of itself may well speak to some racial tensions as it appears to have been a virtual mob of Hui attacking a Han antagonist, however, it’s difficult to comment on that situation without further information. It may well just be a simple case of pent-up anger at the corruption and violence chengguan are internationally famous for.

Perhaps more interesting, though, is the reaction of Chinese netizens to this story. ChinaSMACK translator Joe noted:

Many of the comments on Tianya are bigoted in nature which may highlight the ethnic tensions that exist within China. Negative perceptions exist toward ethnic Hui and Uygurs where they are often stereotyped to be thieves and con artists in China. In addition, many also question the ethnic differences emerge as to why ethnic minorities can resist against authority while most common Chinese submit to it.

Indeed, the Chinese comments are fascinating. Generally speaking, the Chinese internet has nothing but enmity for chengguan. Other recent popular topics about chengguan on the Chinese internet (for example, these two also translated on ChinaSMACK) netizens have compared chengguan to (among other things) the Japanese army and Satan. Here, though, they’re generally much more sympathetic, perhaps because it seems clear the man was beaten quite ruthlessly. And, as Joe reported, they’ve got plenty of bad things to say about the Hui people. Below, we’ve translated a number of the comments from Tianya. They’re not the same comments ChinaSMACK translated, we’re translation only comments with racial undertones (or overtones) here.

Translated Comments:

The worst ethnic groups:

  1. Tibetans
  2. Manchus
  3. Uighurs
  4. Hui people

Haha, there is a reason law in China is enforced differently for minority groups than it is for Han people.

Seeing a whole screen full of white caps [a reference to the white hats many Hui people wear]…perhaps this wasn’t as simple as the chengguan enforcing law through violence.

Lanzhou is a place where Hui people live. Hui people are indeed treated differently.

I still have doubts, the indomitable chengguan could really lose? Looking again, their opponents are the ‘white cap gang’. I suddenly realize I will support the chengguan this one time.

Minority groups are a little terrifying…Xinjiang people sell cakes, Hui people sell snacks…Speaking objectively, the government should be very strict in controlling them.

A crowd of white-capped pigs. Sooner or later we’ll kill you all off.

He ran into a savage/uncivilized ethnic group.

Dirty muslims vs. the Lanzhou chengguan

The Hui people and chengguan, two of our nations disasters! It’s dog fighting dog, just let them bite each other! The chengguan are all bandits, the Hui are all wild animals!

[In response to the above comment] You’re not even as good as a dog!

I’m a Han person. A brainwashed-for-thousands-of-years Han.

Ignorant, savage muslim heretics and shameless savage chengguan together!

[In response to the above comment] Please respect the beliefs of others.

…As to those of you talking about ‘the problem of ethnic minorities’, I have grown up with many minority friends and classmates, including Hui people, and except for their religios beliefs there is no difference between then and us Han people. They took eat, wear clothes, look for a better life, they’re not constantly restraining themselves to keep from stirring up trouble. They are all just common people, don’t turn this into some huge generalizing thing. Yes, some minority people from remote regions have low levels of education and skills, but isn’t that a universal phenomenon in all undeveloped areas? That this situation exists has nothing to do with race/ethnicity, if you think about it. People just strive to feed and support themselves, that’s it.

Regardless of what race they are, if they refuse to be slaves then they are heroes! I admire them.

Ethnic minorities are pretty good, eh? Of course, claiming independence would be unacceptable. Chengguan are dogs!

Our Thoughts

The above is a fairly good representation of the comments that address issues of ethnicity directly on Tianya, although there are so many that we barely made it halfway through the first page before deciding translating too many more would just clutter things up.

As you can see, there’s an interesting mix of overt racism and open-minded thinking. We opted not to translate many of the subtler comments, but they are more or less the same: some people support the chengguan and imply that they dislike Hui, some people curse the chengguan in a way that implies support for the Hui, perhaps, but it’s difficult to tell.

Some people will recall that we’ve covered issues of race in China here before, with rather explosive results, so let me say one thing very clearly: I am not in any way suggesting that all Chinese people are racist. Nor am I trying to suggest there aren’t racial tensions in America, however, this is a blog about China.

What I am suggesting, and what I was suggesting last time, too, is that this is an issue that should be discussed more openly in China before it leads to (more?) actual violence. From the comments translated above, as well as the comments on ChinaSMACK, it’s obvious that some people have gotten the message about equality, but it’s equally obvious that a lot of people haven’t. That strikes me as dangerous.

For an example of just how dangerous it can be, one need look no further than the riots that occurred in Tibet last year. Whatever you believe about how they started and ended, it’s difficult to deny that ethnic violence did occur, probably in large part because of frustration among Tibetans who feel they aren’t being treated fairly. James Miles, the only Western reporter in Lhasa at the time of the riots, described what he saw wandering around the city, temporarily forgotten by his handlers in the chaos:

What I saw was calculated targeted violence against an ethnic group, or I should say two ethnic groups, primarily ethnic Han Chinese living in Lhasa, but also members of the Muslim Hui minority in Lhasa. And the Huis in Lhasa control much of the meat industry in the city. Those two groups were singled out by ethnic Tibetans. They marked those businesses that they knew to be Tibetan owned with white traditional scarves. Those businesses were left intact. Almost every single other across a wide swathe of the city, not only in the old Tibetan quarter, but also beyond it in areas dominated by the ethnic Han Chinese. Almost every other business was either burned, looted, destroyed, smashed into, the property therein hauled out into the streets, piled up, burned. It was an extraordinary outpouring of ethnic violence of a most unpleasant nature to watch, which surprised some Tibetans watching it. So they themselves were taken aback at the extent of what they saw. And it was not just targeted against property either. Of course many ethnic Han Chinese and Huis fled as soon as this broke out. But those who were caught in the early stages of it were themselves targeted. Stones thrown at them. At one point, I saw them throwing stones at a boy of maybe around 10 years old perhaps cycling along the street. I in fact walked out in front of them and said stop. It was a remarkable explosion of simmering ethnic grievances in the city.

Whether you want One China or a Free Tibet, whether you support or condemn the beating of chengguan, and frankly, whether or not you’re racist, I think everyone can agree that ethnic violence isn’t in the best interests of anyone. It serves neither the Chinese government nor the Chinese people, and by Chinese people, I mean all of them, not just Han. Feudal attitudes about ethnic minorities (and foreigners) might seem harmless or irrelevant when many Chinese can go their entire lives without confronting anyone very different from themselves. Sometimes, they might even be harmless, but is it really worth it to take that chance?

And anyway, is it so bad a thing to admit that there is racism in China and begin taking some steps to deal with it?

Given his willingness to engage in reasoned debate the last time we talked about racism here, we’ve also sent this topic to popular Chinese blogger hecaitou for his comments. If he responds, we’ll add his response here, or perhaps make a new post.