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China: Citizen reporter killed—by who?

What began as a protest against a planned urban trash dump encroaching on a residential area held by the villagers there in Tianmen, Hubei province became a murder story after the city management officers moved from beating the residents to attacking passerby Wei Wenhua, the would-be citizen journalist filming the violence from his car with his cellphone, who they then quickly killed.

Chengguang operations are most often limited to cracking down on unlicensed business operations in urban areas, most visibly in chasing away streetside vendors and smashing or confiscating their goods, but as netizens have noted in their outrage at Wei's death, chengguan abuse of authority has escalated in recent years. Qin Liwen, writing at the widely-read media industry blog MindMeters, was one of many to see the specter of Sun Zhigang in Wei's death, which is already looking to be one of the bigger stories of 2008.

Cat898 blogger ‘Same stuff, different name’ makes the connection to the Rodney King beating in ‘Say Wei Wenhua had been beaten to death by American chengguan’:

湖北省天门市城管人员因星期一与村民发生冲突,将恰好路过并录像的魏文华群殴致死。
这使我想起来,美国洛杉矶市黑人被4名警察殴打被录像的事件,事发后刑事法庭判定殴打者无罪,几十万洛杉矶人发生了暴乱,打砸商店,烧汽车等等。

On Monday in Hubei province's Tianmen city, just happening to pass by a clash between chengguan and villagers and stopping to film it, Wei Henhua was beaten to death.
This makes me think of the incident in Los Angeles, America, when the beating of a black person by four cops was caught on film; following the incident, a court ruled the attackers innocent, and then tens of thousands of L.A. residents rioted, smashing up shops, torching cars, etc.

[…]

于是,这短短83秒钟的录象,此后不仅成为美国最轰动的新闻录象之一,而且多次出现在全世界的电视机屏幕上。
在这场短短几十小时的洛杉矶暴乱中,死亡人数超过50名,受伤人数超过2000名,超过1000幢大小建筑物被焚毁,经济损失在十亿美元左右。
后来黑人在民事法庭获得赔偿一千多万美元。
美国没有城管,假如美国也设个城管,打死了“魏文华”, 大家是否也站在他的一边呢?

Then, this short 83 second long video became one of the most sensational news stories in American history, and was shown repeatedly on television screens around the world.
In the few short hours in which L.A. rioted, over 50 people died, more than 2,000 people were injured and more than 1,000 buildings were burnt down, resulting in economic losses of around 1 billion US dollars in damages.
Later in civil court, the black person was awarded more than 1 million dollars in compensation.
America doesn't have chengguan, but if it did, and it killed a “Wei Wenhua”, would people stand on his side, or not?

From Liu Kejun at Rednet, which boasts spicy hot opinion:

“管管城管”的声音早已响彻坊间,遗憾的是,我们始终没有看到卓有成效的举措以及城管自身形象的改观。这一次,“打”出士气、“打”出权力的湖北城管,开始了一种更为野蛮的权力实践——他们开始“灭口”了。

Calls to “reign in the chengguan” have been ringing through streets for ages, but what's tragic is that all along we've yet to see any successful steps taken, instead the chengguan itself have been changing in form. This time, Hubei chengguan, in “beating up” morale, in “beating out” their power, have begun implementing an even more barbaric kind of power—killing anyone who might talk.

不知道噩梦是从什么时候开始的,我们的小商小贩、社区居民开始把城管视为“恐怖分子”,并且闻城管而色变。这些城管,最初只是开着大卡车,操着高音喇叭,把来自社会底层的小商小贩们追赶得落荒而逃;后来,他们开始风卷残云般没收“违规占道、有碍市容”的商品、货物;再后来,他们是围追堵截、踢、抢、砸、拿,把瓜农的西瓜摔烂,桃农的桃子踢翻……再后来,他们开始打人,城管过后,小商小贩们哭声一片;到如今,他们不但动辄在光天化日之下对小商小贩们施暴,还不允许过路的人说话旁观。这不,用手机拍摄了几张“罪证”,就被他们活活打死了。

Who knows when this nightmare started, when our small street peddlers and community residents became seen by the chengguan as “terrorists”, who lose their color at mention of the chengguan. These chengguan, at the beginning, would only drive up in their trucks, honk their loud horns, and chase the street vendors scurrying off; later, they began blasting in like the wind and confiscating all the products and goods which “illegally block the road, obstruct the city's appearance”; from there, they would surround people and block them in, kicking, snatching, smashing, taking, throwing watermelon farmers’ fruit on the ground, kicking peach farmers’ carts over…and then from there, they began hitting people. When the chengguan would arrive, vendors and peddlers would start yelling. Until today, that is, when they don't just use violence on vendors at will and in the broad daylight, but now those in passing are not allowed to speak or even observe. This time, someone used a cellphone to take a few photos of “evidence of a crime”, and was beaten by them to death.

Liu goes on to call for the dissolution of the chengguan as a body. One reader of his post, writing from Changsha in Hunan province, where just last month another man was beaten to death by a group of chengguan after he started arguing back, defends the chengguan as necessary to ensure cities are not flooded with small-scale unlicensed vendors:

zwc (来自于湖南省长沙市)
引用 2008-1-9 22:07:00
关于城管的问题,是一个大家经常谈论的话题.对城管我们不能只看一个方面,而应全面地去看待,要一分为二的看问题.像湖北天门市竟陵镇湾坝村发生的这种情况,确实令人气愤,也让人不可理解,我个人认为,这只是个别现象[。。。]试想想,如果没有城管,小商小贩们到处摆摊设点,特别是在城市中,那谁敢保证城市的管理就会比现在好?我相信,只要我们的政府加强对城管队伍人员的管理,建立健全相应的管理制度,城管队伍定受到人民群众欢迎的!

Problems with the chengguan is something people discuss quite often. But with the chengguan, we can't only look at one side, instead ought to consider the whole picture, and break individual problems down. Like with what happened in Tianmen, Hubei, for sure it makes one furious, and has no explanation, but personally, I feel that this is only just an individual occurrence […] If you think about it, if there were no chengguan, streetside peddlers and vendors would start setting up everywhere, especially in downtown areas, and who is willing to guarantee that management of the city would be better then? I believe that if our government would just strengthen management of chengguan squadrons, and establish a strong and according management system, that chengguan squadrons would be welcomed by the masses!

红网网友 (来自于江苏省南通市)
引用 2008-1-9 21:07:00
城管来自底层次,素质相当底,个人看发是地皮社会渣子,因国家法律不建全,他们是在钻法律的空子.建议公安机关集中培训.国家建全法规

Chengguan officers come from the lower stratum of society, and their character is accordingly low. My personal view is that such scoundrels are the scum of society, and due to the poor state of the country's laws, the chengguan operate in a loophole. I recommend the PSB concentrate their training, and implement all-round rule of law.

红网网友 (来自于湖南省岳阳市)
引用 2008-1-9 20:33:00
大家都说:城管如土匪。我则认为天门城管不如土匪!因为土匪还是人,而他们连禽兽都不如就更谈不上是人了,悲哀……..

Everyone says the chengguan are like bandits, but I don't even see that the Tianmen chengguan manage even that! Because bandits are still human, but these guys don't even compare to beasts, never mind humans. Sorrowful……

红网网友 (来自于湖南省怀化市)
引用 2008-1-9 19:58:00
不能再沉默,我们要大声问,到底是谁给了这些城管妄为的权力.

We can be silent no longer. We must speak out loudly and ask: just who gave these chengguan such absurd powers?

Several readers, responding to Wang Gongquan‘s memorial post to Wei on the Tianya platform, have had a lot to say, but not many are asking many questions:

评论人:tzs333666888 | 评论日期:2008-1-10 13:16
当今中国的体制下,还有什么是公平公正,我觉得人民的出路在于自己,考自己的双手保护自己,很希望像美国一样每个公民都有保护自己的权利,这虽然是一种迫不得已但我认为很有必要,每个人都有持有枪支的权力,只有这样弱者才能保护自己,为什么我们就不能合法的拥有枪支来保护自己,免得这个社会的所有执法者都那么傲气,也叫他们尝尝私闯美国农民的家园或威胁他人生命时,那种挨抢中弹死亡的滋味。

Under the system in China today, where is there any fairness or justice left? I feel that people's only way out of this is themselves; people need to rely on their own to hands to protect themselves, and I really wish every citizen had the right to protect themselves just like in America. This might not be something we want, but I feel it's imperative, that everyone have the right to bear firearms. Only then will the vulnerable be able to protect themselves. Why shouldn't we be legally allowed to carry firearms to protect ourselves, and keep the “executors” in this society from getting too arrogant? I'd like to see them try and break into the home of an American farmer or threaten them with their life, and see what getting a bullet in the head tastes like.

评论人:非常和谐 | 评论日期:2008-1-10 15:29
我日,我昨天发了一片到搜狐博客上,骂了几句,今天居然把我那篇文章给封了!!

Fuck, I wrote about this yesterday on my Sohu blog, ran off at the mouth, and sure enough today it was deleted!!

评论人:wingofdark | 评论日期:2008-1-10 17:06
彭宇,魏文华从两个方面证明了在中国不能做好人

From Peng Yu to Wei Wenhua, these two cases, it just proves that in China you just can't do the right thing.

评论人:plittle | 评论日期:2008-1-10 21:56
强身健体,保护自己与家人

Work out, keep your body strong, protect yourself and your family.

评论人:ywjsammy | 评论日期:2008-1-10 23:47
看来生活在中国需要炼武.或买把枪什么的.

It looks like in China you either need to know martial arts, or else buy yourself a gun.

On a lighter note, well-known blogger pundit and humorist Song Shinan suggests new warning notices for both on-the-job chengguan officers to wear and electronics shops to affix upon camera-capable cellphones they sell:

                                       

 
当心机械伤人;
                             当心裂变物质;
Caution
mechanical injury       Caution,fission-matter                 

 

2、所有在市面上销售的手机,如有照相功能,应在显著位置贴上如下标志:
 

                                        

 
必须戴安全帽;
                                     必须穿防护服;
Must wear safety helmet              
Must wear protective clothes

Bokee blogger Dail89 looks at unlicensed street vendors from an economic perspective, listing all the benefits their existence brings, but sticks mostly to the title of his/her frightening post, ‘Chengguan must be deprived of their weapons’:

一个政权要维持社会秩序,必须借助于一定程度的暴力,以惩治危害社会的犯罪分子。在各法治国家,可以合法行使暴力的机构主要有两个,其一是军队,其二是警察。前者对外,后者对内。而我国目前可以对平民合法行使暴力的机构,除了警察,还有检察院、法院、武警,暴力已有泛滥之势,如今各地又以各种形式变相武装城管,使城管演变为另一支可以行使暴力的机构。据报道,一些地方的城管不仅配备棍棒,而且开始配备PDA终端、防刺背心、头盔、防割手套、辣椒水……武备越来越重,暴力趋势越来越明显。

For a regime to maintain social order, it must make use of a certain amount of violence, to punish the criminals who do harm to society. In every country which has rule of law, there are mainly two bodies which can legally employ violence: one is the military, the other is the police. The former works abroad, and the latter domestically. However, at present in China, of bodies which can legally employ violence against the people, aside from police there are the Procuratorate, the courts and the People's Armed Police, and this violence has spread freely, to the point that at present, in every area and in different forms, we have seen chengguan become armed, and as such have become yet another body capable of employing violence. According to the news, some local chengguan squads have been outfitted not only with batons, but now carry PDAs, knife-proof vests, helmets, knife-proof gloves, pepper spray…and the tougher their battle gear has gotten, the trend of violence has become more and more apparent.

Well-known journalist-blogger Zhao Mu has simply posted a series of photos others were able to take of the violence and destruction chengguan regulary incur; here are a few:

13 comments

  • Why is China so crap? Why does this always happen in China? Because Chinese are a bunch of submissive weak losers who don’t stick up for themselves and their fellow citizens. If this happened in my country there wouldn’t be crowds of people watching like you see in these pictures, those crowds would be beating the crap out of the chengguan. Chinese citizens are to blame for this, not the government or the chengguan.

    If we let our governments get away with this type of crap, of course it would get worse and worse, but we don’t let them get away with it, we pull our governments into line and say “sorry but you can’t do that or I’ll k ill you” but Chinese just look on and say “Huh, I better not sell things on the street then”.

    If Chinese aren’t going to do anything about this type of nonsenese, and in fact most Chinese defend their governments actions, then so be it, let Chinese be slaves and let them be beaten, its their choice. If they wan’t freedom, they have to earn it like everybody else.

  • Robin

    does anyone have any links to photos of Wei Wenhua or any footage of the protest at which he was killed?

  • […] Det er nemt at forstå, når man ser billeder som dem bloggeren Zhao Mu har lagt på sin blog (via Globalvoices. De senere år har der været flere alvorlige sager, hvor cheng guans har brugt voldelige midler, […]

  • […] protest at the Tianmen Party headquarters and a taxi driver strike in solidarity following the the recent beating to death of a local business leader, to the anti-Maglev neighborhood protests that have taken place in […]

  • Kenny

    I recently read the story about the Chinese blogger that was killed in China. I lived in China this summer and our group had our lives filmed every day. We ran into some trouble with filming freely, but ultimately were allowed to film freely.

    We posted all of our videos on http://www.nihaoareyou.com .

    Stories like this lead many people to think that all Chinese interactions are irrational and brutal. Our group loved China and the extremely generous people we met, please take time to see the other side of China that isn’t published in stories.

  • an american

    I was so sorry to hear about Chinese authorities’ brutal murder of innocent citizen Wei Wenhua. To all the Chinese citizens standing up for their rights, please do not feel alone in your plight against corrupt government. We have plenty of corruption in our government here in America, too (as everyone in the world knows, since our current president insists on policies that hurt other countries as well as the U.S.).

    We also have a lot of corruption within our police departments; our police beat the homeless and the poor, rape and traumatize prostitutes and others who don’t have the resources to fight back, and the police are rarely held accountable for these atrocities. Unfortunately, Americans remained silent for too long, and now we are faced with the loss of many of our Constitutional rights – because we were not paying attention when the government took them away. As painful as it is, it is good that you are paying attention and trying to do something about it before it gets worse.

    The fight for all citizens’ rights to safety and free speech is a global fight, and I want Chinese citizens to know that I and many other Americans stand in solidarity with you. I congratulate you for having the courage to voice your opinions with the risk of being beaten and/or killed into silence. Do not give up.

    I hope America’s next president can mend at least some of the damage that our current one has caused worldwide; I realize there are not enough words to apologize to all the world for what he and his aides have done in our names. I hope our next president can help all people who only wish for freedom, whatever country they are in.

    Please don’t give up, you are not alone. I, too, fear my government and the police because of all the injustices I have seen, and know that there are so many others. Keep trying and may all people enjoy a peaceful world once we get the momentum to finally overcome unfair governments. Peace, mimsy

  • […] check out John Kennedy’s post at Global Voices entitled, “Citizen reporter killed – by who?. The post contains a number of translated comments about the incident from various Chinese sources. […]

  • […] GobalVoicesOnline.com gibt es eine Reihe von Reaktionen aus China, ins Englische übersetzt. Durchaus nicht […]

  • […] Pochi giorni fa, a Tianmen, nella provincia di Hubei, è stato ucciso il primo “citizen reporter” cinese, Wei Wenhua, colpevole di aver filmato con il proprio telefono cellulare gli scontri tra una squadra di Ispettori municipali (il corpo amministrativo che fa rispettare l’ordine nelle aree urbane) e un gruppo di residenti che protestavano contro lo scarico dei rifiuti nei pressi delle proprie abitazioni. Wei è rimasto ucciso da calci e bastonate, e molti altri passanti sono finiti in ospedale. La protesta degli internauti non si è fatta attendere e su blog e forum di discussione hanno condannato duramente, sfuggendo alle maglie della censura, l’azione repressiva del governo. La stessa Zeng Junfang, vedova di Wei, ha chiesto giustizia. Risultato: il responsabile dell’ufficio dell’Amministrazione urbana di Tianmen, Qi Zhengjun, è stato arrestato per l’omicidio. […]

  • […] Pochi giorni fa, a Tianmen, nella provincia di Hubei, è stato ucciso il primo “citizen reporter” cinese, Wei Wenhua, colpevole di aver filmato con il proprio telefono cellulare gli scontri tra una squadra di Ispettori municipali (il corpo amministrativo che fa rispettare l’ordine nelle aree urbane) e un gruppo di residenti che protestavano contro lo scarico dei rifiuti nei pressi delle proprie abitazioni. Wei è rimasto ucciso da calci e bastonate, e molti altri passanti sono finiti in ospedale. La protesta degli internauti non si è fatta attendere e su blog e forum di discussione hanno condannato duramente, sfuggendo alle maglie della censura, l’azione repressiva del governo. La stessa Zeng Junfang, vedova di Wei, ha chiesto giustizia. Risultato: il responsabile dell’ufficio dell’Amministrazione urbana di Tianmen, Qi Zhengjun, è stato arrestato per l’omicidio. […]

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