Friday, 31 October 2008
Chinese Authorities Supress News of Massive Jiangxi Riot
On October 24, a massive riot occurred between a timber company and local villagers in Jiangxi Province, resulting in dozens of injuries. Following the orders of higher-level officials, local authorities have suppressed all news of the incident.
According to local villagers, the incident broke out before midnight on October 23 in Shuanghong Village (originally Hongsu Village), Daduan Town, Tonggu County, Jiangxi Province. The Green Sea Wood Company Ltd. hired local organized crime figures to attack residents of Shuanghong, including the town’s mayor and the town's Communist Party secretary, during the night.
Early the next morning, several hundred angry villagers struck back at the company.“They wanted justice; they smashed whatever could be broken,” explained one villager. “Company vehicles were all overturned, office equipment was broken, and factory windows were smashed.”
Residents from nearby villages in Daduan soon joined in the riot. Thousands of people were watching as villagers destroyed the workplace of over 1000 individuals.Later, Yichun Municipal authorities called in special police forces to quell the riot. The riot police beat villagers with batons and later fired tear-gas shells to disperse the crowd. Villagers used the fence of the building as a barrier and struck back, using stones and sticks. More than 20 officers and villagers were injured in the melee. On October 25, the Tonggu County Television Station said the incident was a result of “fighting in groups.” It alleged that three officers were injured, one seriously.
According to an inside source, Tongu County officials held a conference later that evening to plan how to deal with the situation. Attendees decided that no one would answer questions from the press, only Provincial officials would release any information about the riot, and that in general all news of the incident would be contained.
“Currently, all information and communication from these parts have been shut down,” said a resident of a neighboring village. “The only [information] that is available are false news reports produced by the local authorities; any real information that is posted on the website is swiftly taken down.” The local authorities said it has formed a team to investigate the case. However, the reporter was told that their investigation, which must follow orders from the municipal authorities, has not yet begun. Staff members at the People’s Hospital of Tonggu also said that they couldn’t divulge any information. Some sources say the company provided a luxury vehicle for every department in the county administration office. Using government connections, the company leased all the timberland in the county at 80 yuan (US$11.7) per mu (1 mu is equal to 1/15 of a hectare or 1/6 of an acre). Currently, a mu of timber would yield a 3,000 yuan ($438.5) return. All the once heavily forested area surrounding the village has been logged clear and now stands barren.
“Many major issues the Green Sea incident has brought out must be resolved,” remarked one villager. “The issue of companies bribing government officials, and the duty of the Public Security Bureau to punish those vicious organized criminals who were hired by the company, must be dealt with. Otherwise, villagers will take this matter to the provincial authorities.”