Archive for November 20th, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Riots in Longnan City, Gansu Province: Official Statistics and (Semi) Official Backgrounders

Up to 2,000 people attacked the local Communist Party headquarters in Longnan City, Gansu Province (甘肃省, 陇南市), northwest China in protest over a land dispute, according to the HK Standard of November 18, quoting Chinese state media. About 30 people protesting the eviction plans gathered at the party headquarters Monday morning but the crowd swelled to about 2,000 throughout the day and into the evening, according to Xinhua. The location was Longnan City, Wudu District (陇南市, 武都城区) – a poverty-stricken region that had suffered in addition from the big earthquake in May of this year (also HK Standard, of November 20). Longnan City is in southern Gansu province bordering Shaanxi in the east and Sichuan in the south.

The riots were apparently triggered by eviction plans.

Singapore’s Morning News Net quotes Longnan City’s information office as saying yesterday that the siege around the municipal party compound had ended, that more than sixty police, officials and members of the general public had been been seriously injured, and that eleven cars plus a great quantity of files and other assets inside the two municipal party committee buildings had been destroyed.

Both China Daily and the Morning News net article quote a statement by Longnan’s city government which refers to the first small number of protestors as petitioners“The petitioners “were provoked by a small minority of people with ulterior motives”. “Small minority” is the usual kind of official terminology in cases which embarrass the Chinese Communist Party.

A Global Voices post contains some possible explanations about as to how the tension which lead to the riots built up. At the moment, it also contains videos which apparently record scenes of the street fight between protesters and police. The videos were apparently uploaded at Youku first, and at Youtube later.

Media based inside mainland China offer possible background information, too. According to Caijing Net (财经网), the incident can be traced back to January 2004, when the State Council approved Longnan to become a city and set up the Wudu District as a new administrative center with favorable policies. As new buildings went up, many of the area’s residents were forced to move out. Many of them are still living in the temporary houses, waiting for new houses to be built by the government. A rumor that Longnan’s administrative center would move to another district started circulating in March of this year, arousing the dissatisfaction of Wudu residents. They worried that the relocation would put an end to construction in their district and that construction on their new houses would be delayed. Many became vocal with their discontent.

The HK Standard (through China Daily) quotes Public Security minister Meng Jianzhu saying that police “should be fully aware of the challenge brought by the global financial crisis and try their best to maintain social stability”The rioting follows strikes by taxi drivers and labor protests in major export regions, where thousands of factories have closed, prompting fears the financial crisis could stir wider popular unrest, writes the HK Standard.

According to an entry of today (that’s Nov 21 local time in China) on the website of Longnan’s city government, most of the shops have re-opened, and production work and the lives of the masses are returning into normal, after more than one day of diligent work. The article also quotes a village official who is worried that the riots may have left negative influence on reconstruction work in the area recovering from the earthquake, and a teacher from Longshan Practical Primary School (or Experimental Primary School? – 实验小学), who kept a watchful eye on the childrens’ safety.

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