Jul 28, 2008
The Western press reported on a riot in a Chinese village, in Guizhou province. A 15-year-old girl was raped and murdered by the relative of a high official.
When authorities tried to cover up the crime, pretending she committed suicide, the girl’s uncle, a teacher, protested against the dishonest inquiry. He was then beaten and killed.
His students and the entire population were enraged and demonstrated by the thousands in front of the police station, burning several administrative buildings and police cars. The government sent reinforcements to repress the demonstrators.
For once, the press picked up the story because of the coming Olympic Games – and because some riot scenes were videotaped and put on the Internet despite the censorship.
But for years now, such revolts have broken out in one region of China after another. The population has become infuriated by the behavior of corrupt and arrogant local authorities, who extort and rob them. The market economy in China, highly praised in the West, has severely impoverished the majority of the population, in particular in the countryside. Some 900 million peasants are left to fend for themselves by so-called economic development, which only enriches a small minority of wealthy people, foreign investors and companies like Wal-Mart.
The exasperation of the population is such that massive revolts can break out at any moment. For example, in December 2004 in Guangdong province, some 50,000 people demonstrated against police who had beaten to death a young migrant worker accused of stealing a bike. The repression that followed left four dead and a hundred wounded.
In 2006, thousands of peasants demonstrated for several days because the authorities had leased their land to a Hong Kong company. In fact, there are tens of thousands of such illegal land seizures each year, about 80,000 in 2004 alone. Some 40 million peasants lost their land in this way during the last ten years.
In response, there have been tens of thousands of protest movements each year, even though we hear about very few of them. The peasants defend themselves and resist. The government doesn’t hesitate to repress them, throwing them in prison, shooting into crowds.
Of course, with the coming Olympic Games, the local authorities were ordered to “protect social harmony and stability and to assure that the Olympic Games take place in safety and serenity,” according to an official slogan.
Safety and serenity – but not for the Chinese population!