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China: Mass incident sparked by a dead body

Categories: East Asia, China, Breaking News, Digital Activism, Governance, Humanitarian Response, Law, Protest

A Chinese google document has been set up to collect the most up-to-date information about the Shishou riot [1]. Here is a translated summary of the blog posts via the google doc.

Background (by Subei [2] via google doc)

On June 17th around 7:30, Xu Yuangao's body was found outside Yong Long hotel in Shishou city, Hubei province. Xu, 24, was the hotel's chef. Police investigated the scene and said that Xu had committed suicide. Xu's family, however, believed that he was murdered because there were no blood stains on the ground, but there were some obvious injuries in his body. Moreover, a similar incident had taken place two years prior. Rumor spread that local police and government officials had shares in the hotel.

The following day, the hotel told Xu's family that if they could agree with a report that Xu committed suicide, they could get 35,000 yuan in compensation. Instead, Xu's family insisted on finding out the truth and refused to hand over Xu's body. Xu's father then brought a gas container to the hotel to protect the body from being taking away.

[photo: father protecting the son's body]

At 1am on June 19, police and funeral cars arrived at the hotel, wanting to take the body away. 2,000 Shishou residents blocked the hotel entrance to protect Xu's corpse. The first confrontation between local residents and the police took place at 8am, during which some residents were arrested, while more joined in. At 1pm, several thousand local residents fought back with stones and bottles and the police line broke down. At 3pm, police failed again in seizing the dead body and the city government had to seek help from armed police. Eventually, Jingzhou sent a clan of armed police to back up. However, the number of local residents had reached more than 40,000 at its peak and the armed police had to retreat.

At night, there were still more than 10,000 residents blocking the hotel entrance and main roads leading to the hotel. At 2am on June 20, 500 police took action again and there was another confrontation. Dozens of local residents and polices were injured.

The city government began to cut Internet connections on the early morning of June 20. Another round of confrontation took place around 7am. This time police were equipped with 8 anti-riot vehicles and six fire engines. Thousands of local residents fought back with stone and bricks. Below are some video showing the confrontation scene:

The most update news from twitter via freemoren at around 10am on June 21 [3] says that police had finally seized the dead body and transported it to the crematorium. Torrent from twitter has set up a twitter account @shishou [4] for translating updates in English.

While overseas media such as Reuters [5] and AFP [6] have reported on the riot, Xinhua Chinese has a news story describing the confrontation and riot as an inter-departmental fire drill [7]. The English-language xinhua.net has another version [8] more sympathetic towards the protesters.

Below are some comments from twitter (via twitter search [9] – shishou):

After tens of thousands of cops robbed people in #Shishou of a corpse, welcome to China ruled by Zombies.

Please help to spread the news of the riot in Shishou. Their lives are in danger, Chinese people need your help! #ShishouRiot #Shishou

FUCK! Shishou riots reported in Chinese media as “bus fire extinguishing exercises”. How low can those in power go?