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Tens of Thousands Riot in Southwest China
The Epoch Times

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WANZHOU DISTRICT, CHONGQING CITY Ė A violent riot involving tens of thousands of people erupted in southwest China, sparked by a conflict between a laborer and a pair of passersby on a Chongqing city street.

On the afternoon of October 18, a porter accidentally struck a woman passing by with the pole slung over his back, which was dirty and stained the womanís clothes. A male accompanying the woman and who claimed to be a high-level government official struck the porter with his shoulder pole, breaking the laborerís leg. The manís act caused public outrage, resulting in forty to fifty thousand people surrounding the district government building and burning many police patrol cars and fire engines. Authorities sent a thousand armed riot police to suppress the violent conflict. The demonstrators were gradually dispersed by midnight. The event has since subsided but has caused Beijingís leaders great alarm.

Beating Causes Public Outrage

The Hong Kong publication Apple Daily reported a witness, Mr. Li, as saying that a porter named Yu Jikui accidentally struck a passing woman named Zeng Qingrong with the pole slung over his back, which was dirty and stained the womanís clothes. The woman immediately slapped the porterís face several times, despite his repeated apologies. Hu Quanzong, the man accompanying the woman, snatched the porterís shoulder pole and struck him with it, breaking his leg. He also claimed that he was the Director-General of the Land Bureau, and that he could buy the porterís life for 200 thousand Yuan (US $ 24,155). The woman claimed that she was wealthy and that if others in the crowd slapped the bearerís face, she would pay them 20 Yuan (US $ 2.42) for every slap.

The event immediately incited public indignation. Hundreds of people surrounded the site, causing a traffic jam. Some people called ď110,Ē Chinaís equivalent of 911. On arrival, the police shook hands with Hu, and wanted to take him, the woman, and the porter away. Meanwhile, the public surrounded the police patrol cars to prevent them passing through. Afterwards, the event escalated; by nightfall, tens of thousands people had surrounded Wanzhou District government. The overseas Boxun News Network reports that there were forty to fifty thousand people surrounding the building. The government did not respond until midnight. Five police cars and fire engines were overturned and burned, and the glass door of the front entrance to the Wanzhou District government office was broken by stones thrown by the public.

Riot Alarms Beijingís Leaders

Because of the serious nature of the incident, Wu Zhenglong, the chief of Wanzhou District, called an urgent late-night meeting. In the meeting he told the police to refrain from responding to demonstratorsí violent acts and insults. However, at about 8 pm the authorities started to use force with about a thousand armed riot police dispersing the crowd outside the building and the square. The public responded by throwing bricks and pieces of wood at the police. Eventually, the police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. By about midnight, the demonstrators gradually dispersed. Although the event was neutralized, members of both the public and police were injured. Dozens of people were arrested.

The police held a special news conference on midnight, October 19. They claimed that the couple who beat the porter were not government officials. The man, Hu Quanzong, was a temporary worker in a local fruit wholesale market and that his wife, Zeng Qingrong, did not have a stable job.

It is reported that the Wanzhou event has alarmed Beijingís leaders. Many top officials in Beijing representing Chongqing rushed to the city to inspect the scene. They instituted emergency measures and established a quick-response headquarters to deal with future problems. The authorities also sent police from nearby cities and counties to Wanzhou, whose police force was far too small. Thousands of army and police forces joined the anti-riot team.

Government Moves to Stifle Online Dissent

The event caused Internet users to express discontent at the current political situation, the awakening of social conscience, and alarm at the corruption in Mainland China, as well as concern for the future of the nation. However, the hosts of the forums quickly terminated all comments and reports concerning the Wangzhou event, and the government moved to stifle all mention of the event.

Recently, conflicts between the public and police have been occurring with growing frequency, mainly because of the nationís burgeoning social and economic inequalities and because citizens have no place to appeal for justice.

The scale of the conflicts is becoming larger, and they are also becoming more and more violent. A survey of nearly one hundred scholars and experts conducted by Beijing University showed sixty percent of the experts think that China will probably face a crisis in the social, economic, or political field before 2010 that will influence the development of the nation.

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