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China: Protest and Repression at Earthquake Area, Gansu Longnan

According to mainstream news report, around 30 peasants from Wudu(武都) district Dongjiang(東江) town paid a petition visit to the Longnan(隴南) city committee yesterday (17-18 of Nov), but it ended with police repression. There is little explanation on what had exactly happened as information has been blocked.

However, two videos have been uploaded in youtube showing the street fight between protesters and police. In the video, sound of gunfire is rather visible:

Beifeng tried to figure out the background of the confrontation by searching on the web. And it seems that the incident is related with the land acquisition compensation and the relocation of the Longnan City after the earthquake. Here is a translation of Beifeng's investigation:

Land acquisition and city relocation

陇南位于甘肃南部,是全省唯一地处长江流域区域的地区。在地震前,该地区进行了大规模的城市建设,许多群众农民土地被征。为修建新区政府办公区,武都区整个东江镇及半个汉王镇的农田、居民居住区都被征用。有消息称,有许多人被开发商强行拆迁,许多人至今仍住在帐篷内。

Longnan is located in southern Gansu. It is the only region in the province that situates near the Yangtze River. Before the earthquake in May, the region had a large scale city construction project and many peasants had to surrender their land. In order to build the new city government office building, most of the farmland and residential district at Dongjiang town and Hanwang town has been resumed. Some said that many people were forcefully removed by developer and some are still living in camp.

在 5.12特大地震中,陇南伤亡300多人,成为继四川之后的最大灾区。2008年7月有谣言传出,当地市委、市政府以地质原因提出了将行政中心从武都区迁往成县的规划,引起早先武都区拆迁农民及全区居民的强烈不满。这个谣言出现后陇南市政在极短时间内就通过地方媒体进行辟谣的官方讲话,很快将事态安定了下来。但在辟谣后一周,陇南市的网民发现,陇南武都区因地质问题迁建的讨论文档已赫然挂在国务院行政网站上,而陇南市府官方并没有针对此事做进一步澄清,结果在短时间内激化了武都与成县人民的矛盾,自此开始,社会流言与网络相互谩骂不止。拆迁农民亦多次上访。

In the May 12 earthquake, there were more than 300 people injured and killed. Gansu is the second most seriously affected area in the country after Sichuan. Back in July 2008, there were rumors saying that the city committee and government planned to relocate the city administration center from Longnan to Cheng County out of geology consideration. The plan had agitated peasants who had suffered from the land acquisition and the residents in Longnan. However, the government denied the rumor very quickly via local media and the emotion cooled down. However, a week later some netizens found out that the document concerning the geology issue and city relocation had been posted on the website of the State Department. The Longnan City government did not give further response to the issue. People from Wudu and Cheng County were put in an antagonistic position and there were a lot of online verbal attacks. The peasants suffered from land acquisition and demolition also started to pay petition visit.

17号早上有消息传来,“陇南市搬迁到成县以已经国务院批准”,相信这则传言是引发群众再次上访的直接原因。

In the morning of Nov 17, the news about “Longnan City relocation plan approved by State Department” spread out, which probably leaded to this new round of petition visit.

2008年11月17 日上午9时30分开始,甘肃省陇南市武都区东江镇30多名拆迁户再次集体到陇南市委上访,要求对陇南市行政中心搬迁后他们面临的住房、土地和今后的生活等问题做出答复。11月17日下午,大批群众和居民在陇南市委门前集体上访,陇南市委和相关部门的干部及时进行了接访,但未与上访人员意见达成一致。当晚,聚集和围观群众陆续增加,围堵至凌晨,未见到主要领导。由于未知原因,人群冲入市委院内,打碎玻璃,砸毁汽车,烧毁部分办公室,引发了这次次的严重冲突。

At 9:30am of Nov 17, more than 30 petitioners from Dongjiang town, Wudu district, Longnan City paid the petition visit to the city committee. Because of the land acquisition, people are homeless and landless, now that the city is to relocated to another district, they demand the city committee to explain the situation and whether the government have any relief plan for them. In the afternoon, more people gathered in front of the city committee. Although the city officials had arranged a meeting with the petitioners, there was no consensus. More and more people gathered outside the city committee in the evening until midnight expecting to see city leader. For some unknown reason, some people rushed into the courtyard of city committee, broke the windows and vehicles and set fire on part of the office. Such action leaded to this serious confrontation.

Police's trap

A secondary school youth from Wudu gave more background on this confrontation in the comment section:

原因是搬迁之事政府在很早以前就出来辟谣,告诉群众不要相信谣言,况且还为此逮捕了6名所谓的传谣者.更重要的是自从王义来武都做市委书记以后,拆了很多的民房,尤其是武都东江镇,毫不夸张的说一个很大的镇子被移为平地,数万人没了自己的家,王义给群众的答案是要把东江建成陇南新城,群众没有说什么他们相信政府,东江镇的居民全部住进了临时安置房,没有人抱怨,因为他们相信党会让他们过的更好!可是王义要一走了之,要那么多人永远无家可归,大家说人们能不愤怒吗?.512武都人民都没有被吓倒,11月17日武都人真的愤怒了,他们自发聚集在市委抗议,武都人是很文明的,开始只喊喊口号"反对搬迁"没人那么过激,然而在17日夜群众愤怒了.在17日夜有几个维持执安的成县武警把几个群众抓到市委大楼拳打脚踢,致使重伤,群众忍无可忍冲进大楼只是想救出群众,抓出打人者,可是没等人走近又是一阵警棒石块,这才越闹越大.到目前已有上百人被捕,很多人受了伤,生命垂危,更可气的是,调来的军车上竟写着"反恐精英"在抗震救灾在中人民解放军树立的深厚情谊被王义在一夜之间瓦解了!

The government had been preaching to the people not to believe in rumor and they had arrested 6 so-called rumor makers. Since Wang Yi became the secretary of city committee, a lot of residential buildings had been demolished, especially in Wudu Dongjiang town. It is not exaggerating to say that the whole town had been demolished and thousands of people lost their home. Wang Yi explained to the people that Dongjiang would become Longnan new city center. People believed the government and willingly moved into temporary housing. No one complained because they believed in the party's good will to improve their life. However, now that Wang Yi decided to move away and left behind so many homeless people. How can they not be angry? During the 5.12 earthquake, people wasn't panicking. In Nov 17, people were really angry, they protested in front of the city committee spontaneously. People in Wudu are very civilized, at first they just shout slogan: “no relocation”. However, later at night, some police from Cheng County pushed a number of protesters into the city committee building and beat them hard. People couldn't stand anymore, they rushed in to rescue their fellow and tried to get hold of the attackers. However, the police insiders received them with rods and stones. Then the situation became out of control. More than a hundred people had been arrested now, many were injured, some are fatal. It is more agitating that the military vehicles moving in carry a slogan “counter terrorist force”. The image of earthquake rescuing team has vanished over night.

Information blocked

Another comment urges people to help spreading the news:

到11月18日,至少已经有数十名无辜群众遭暴打致死。消息都封锁了,很多更真实的照片都发不出来。而在这个帖子里,竟然是政府的御用笔杆在那里乱打官腔,群众的感情他们根本就是在当做垃圾,而百姓的言论遭到大量的封锁,只能发布在少数冷门论坛里,根本无法引起外界重视。我们死了很多同胞,至少我们不希望他们死的太冤,在死后还要被冠以“暴民”的帽子。市委书记拆完了,招商了,引资了,要调离拍屁股走人了,很难不能让人相信他背后的动作。甘肃省委不明真相,封锁消息,这种大事连四百公里外的省会兰州都没有多少人知道!天理何在?我们的意见,我们的冤屈难道就这样被强权和官僚们压制!?无奈之下,只能希望大家口口相传,让更多的人知道真相。希望能够引起关注。就在刚才,大街上防暴警察还在向群众释放催泪瓦斯,官逼民反,民不得不反。天理何在,希望大家了解真相,让更多的人都了解真相,大家都转帮忙传一下。谢谢。

In Nov 18, tens of protesters had been beaten to death. Information had been blocked and photos could not be released. However, this post (translator note: from another forum) has adopted the official stand – they disregarded people's emotion and much of their opinions had been blocked. Their voices could only appear in a small number of forum with very few visitors. They couldn't attract public attention. We have lost a number of fellows and we hope that their deaths deserve some respect, not to be called as “rioters”. The secretary of the city committee had done with the demolition, had done with contracting out project and business, had done with attracting capital, now he is ready to go and leave people behind. He have lost his credibility. The Gansu province committee doesn't know the truth and blocks the information. Such big incident was not even reported in Lanzhou. Where is our justice? Should our opinion and our sufferings be repressed by the bureaucrats like that? We can only depends on people to pass on the information and raise concern. Just now, the riot police are still firing tear gas to the people. The people have to resist. I wish you will understand the truth and let it known to others. Please pass on the information, thank you.

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