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China: Citizen reporter killed—by who?

Categories: East Asia, China, Development, Environment, Freedom of Speech, Governance, Human Rights, Law, Photography, Protest

What began as a protest against a planned urban trash dump encroaching on a residential area held by the villagers there in Tianmen, Hubei [1] province became a murder story [2] after the city management officers [3] 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 [4] operations are most often limited to cracking down on unlicensed business operations in urban areas, most visibly in chasing away streetside vendors [5] and smashing or confiscating their goods, but as netizens have noted in their outrage at Wei's death, chengguan [6] abuse of authority has escalated in recent years. Qin Liwen, writing [7] at the widely-read media industry blog MindMeters, was one of many to see the specter of Sun Zhigang [8] in Wei's death, which is already looking to be one of the bigger stories of 2008 [9].

Cat898 blogger ‘Same stuff, different name’ makes the connection [10] to the Rodney King [11] beating in ‘Say Wei Wenhua had been beaten to death by American chengguan’:


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.


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 [12]:


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.


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 [13] 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

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

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

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

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 [14]‘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

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

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

From Peng Yu [15] 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

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

评论人:ywjsammy | 评论日期:2008-1-10 23:47

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 [16] new warning notices for both on-the-job chengguan officers to wear and electronics shops to affix upon camera-capable cellphones they sell:


mechanical injury       Caution,fission-matter                 




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 [17], ‘Chengguan must be deprived of their weapons’:


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 [18], the courts and the People's Armed Police [19], 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 [20]a series of photos others were able to take of the violence and destruction chengguan regulary incur; here are a few: