Mass Incidents In China

In compiling the various English-language and Chinese-language reports on a mass incident in China, I will edit out certain paragraphs as being extraneous as well as useless.  For example, you can look for the '...' in The Zhongshan Incident.  Most often, it will be the reference to the 74,000 mass incidents in China for year 2004, which was an increase over 58,000 in 2003.  This is usually followed by some speculation by academic scholars or experts about whether this government is going to fall as a result.

Richard McGregor at reports on the 2005 statistics, which will no doubt be cited often for the rest of this year.

Anti-social and mob violence in China rose sharply last year, according to official statistics released on Thursday by the Public Security Bureau, confirming anecdotal evidence of a growing willingness of citizens to take their grievances to the street.

“Public order disturbances” increased by 6.6 per cent to 87,000 in 2005 as a whole, but mob violence rose more quickly, by 13 per cent, the bureau said in an announcement posted on its website.

The bureau counts four different kinds of incidents under the overarching classification of “public order disturbances” but did not define them in any detail in Thursday’s release.

The figures on “disturbances” are consistent with a previous statement by Zhou Yongkang, the public security minister, who has said the number of “mass incidents”, or protests, rose by nearly 30 per cent in 2004 from 2003 to 74,000.

The lack of definition is why I edit it out.  I have no idea what a 'mass incident' means.  I know what The Shanwei  (Dongzhou) Incident of December 2005 is, but are the other 87,000 or so incidents similiar?  For example, I noted what happened in Xinzheng (Henan) in September 2005 (see Comment #074) in which several tens of thousands of emotional people turned out spontaneously in the streets.  Was that a mass incident?  If so, then the impact on support of the government is quite the opposite as the Dongzhou incident.

Lesson: Do not cite what you don't understand to support what you wish.

Yesterday, there was another rowdy unauthorized assembly in Shenzhen with several thousand demonstrators facing off several thousand police officers.

(photo: Ming Pao)

(Photo: Ta Kung Pao)

(Photo: Wen Wei Po)

(Photo: Sing Tao)

The following account is summarized from Ming Pao, Ta Kung Pao, Wen Wei Po and the print edition of Sing Tao.

The source of the problem is Shazui Villlage (沙嘴村), better known to the outside world as Mistress Village (二奶村).  According to a village joke, out of every ten women in the village, seven work as prostitutes and two are kept mistresses.  Along the famous 400-meter lane in the village, there used to be nothing except for night clubs, dance halls, bars, karaokes, saunas, massage parlors, foot bathhouses, hostels, video rooms, Internet bars, etc.  Most of the visitors come from Hong Kong, because Shazui Village is only minutes away from the Huanggang border crossing.  It is estimated that the underground economy of Shazui Village was worth tens of millions of yuan and more than half of the village is engaged in that business some way or the other (such as the underground clinics that provide services for gynecology, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions).

On January 18, the Shenzhen city government's public security bureau, fire department, commerce department and cultural administration department joined together to shut down several hundreds of these sites on the grounds of "unlicensed operation," "violation of fire codes" and so on.  This obviously made the bosses and the employees very unhappy.

At 6am or so on January 19, the bosses, the workers and the waitresses showed up outside of the office of the Shenzhen City Government to protest.  By 8am, there were already 600 people, including females dressed in sauna uniforms and other sexy outfits.  They did not carry any banners.  They were shouting slogans such as "We want to eat, we want to live!".  By 9am, there were about 2,000 people in the open space outside the city government office. 

By 10am, more people were joining the demonstrators.  One estimate gave 5,000 people.  The Shenzhen authorities brought in about 1,000 anti-riot police officers with helmets, shields and police dogs to surround the demonstrators.  The water cannon truck stood ready on the side.  The police then went in and divided the demonstrators into separate groups.  During this period, some of the leaders attemped to assault the police line.  Four individuals were arrested by the police and taken away.  According to witnesses, these four were stripped down to their underwear before before hauled away.

By 1030am, some of the demonstrators listened to the police call (你們這種做法已影響社會秩序,觸犯了相關法律,應立即離開,否則要追究責任 What you are doing now is affecting social order and breaking the related laws.  You must leave immediately or else you will be held responsible) and left the scene.  But there were still more than 1,000 people at the scene.

At 11am, the police began to clear the scene.  Twenty buses were brought to the scene and the demonstrators were taken away.  By 11:40am, the location was open to traffic again.  The arrestees were brought down to the police station, had their information taken down and then released by the evening except for 25 people who were held for 15-day detentions and one person was detained for criminal investigation.

This one is a mass incident that will be counted for year 2006.  But qualitatively and substantively, this is not exactly the same as the Zhongshan (Sanjiao) incident.

(The Standard)  Lights out in Shenzhen's 'Mistress Village'.  By Justin Mitchell.  January 21, 2006.

A 36-year-old pimp who goes by the name Zhao was about the only public face of the formerly bustling sex trade in a Shenzhen district frequented by Hong Kong visitors Friday, a day after an unlikely public demonstration by an estimated 2,000 prostitutes and owners and employees of the establishments that cater to the visitors.

The karaoke bars, discos and saunas of Futian district's Shazui Village were dark, padlocked and papered with warning signs from the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau. Police officers and security guards lounged outside many, while in the neighboring lanes and alleys pimps such as Zhao furtively asked outsiders if they were interested.

In a country where there were 87,000 public protests against government interference in 2005, some of them extremely bloody, the Shenzhen protest Thursday was unlikely, to say the least. Those with interests in discos, karaoke bars, saunas, massage parlors and Internet bars took to the streets following a crackdown on 170 of their businesses.

The nearly six-hour protest in front of the city government's headquarters was peaceful and followed the Wednesday shutdowns by the Shenzhen city government.  The suddenly unemployed protesters carried no signs but chanted slogans such as, "We want to eat. We need money. We want to live."  About 1,000 riot police finally led away 20 full buses of demonstrators. Some 25 people were detained for 15 days and one was detained on criminal charges, a Shenzhen city spokeswoman said.

Most of the padlocked venues are in Shazui Village - also nicknamed "Mistress Village" due to its popularity with Hong Kong men who cross from nearby Huanggang checkpoint to unwind. The spokeswoman said the closures and attendant crackdown on prostitution are part of a three-month campaign "to improve Shenzhen's social order and to reform villages such as Shazui."

Though the crackdown reportedly included Internet cafes, two were still open and full, as was an adult sex shop. The Internet boom held no interest for Zhao, however.  "About 70 percent of my customers and the karaoke club customers were from Hong Kong," Zhao said. "Now there are no places for them to enjoy themselves.  "I worry for myself and my wife, and also for the girls and the bar owners and employees. We all need to pay rent, electricity bills, water bills. We all need to eat. Some people I know invested 700,000 yuan (HK$672,910) in karaoke bars and now they have lost everything."

While the Shenzhen government said the businesses were closed for fire and building code violations or were unlicensed, Zhao said he believed the motive was civic graft. "The business owners will have to bribe the city officials if they want to reopen," he said. 

Richard McGregor at

The cause of the upswings in protests range from illegal land grabs, local corruption, the closure of state-owned factories and damage to farming land from industrial pollution.  Many of the disputes centre on the failure of the government or factory owners taking over land for development to pay the previous occupants what they believe to be adequate compensation for their loss.

The protests so far show no sign of derailing China’s powerful economy, which has maintained strong growth for the past two years and continues to attract foreign investment.  In some respects the protests are a symptom of fast growth, as tens of thousands of people have had their lives disrupted by the spread of industry and commerce.

The following is an article by Wang Lixiong at Boxun.  The argument is about whether it is possible for a civilian revolt to occur in China today in the manner of the historical peasant rebellions (such as those at the founding as well as the fall of the Ming dynasty).

[in translation; original Chinese underneath]

Wang Lixiong: Political Power Can No Longer Come Out Of The Gun Barrel

We need to recognize that there is a fundamental difference between today's China and the one of the past.  Due to the lack of support from a cultural framework and the loss of the ecological foundation, China no longer has the basis for having a rebellious revolution or a war for political power.

Revolts and wars used to be the principal means by which political power changed hands in China.  The collapse of political authority had occurred time and again.  Usually, there would emerge all sorts of armed groups carrying different names, but they were basically warlords and bandits who attacked each other until the strongest bandit ascended the throne of the Emperor and became the legitimized ruler who would re-establish law and order.  The reason that the warlords and bandits could keep fighting each other was because China had a cultural framework for support or the ecological foundation can sustain the population through the troubles.  Therefore, society was not going to fall into the abyss altogether.

Rebellions and wars break down order and disrupt administration, and this actually lowers the exploitation of the ecological resources by society.  Yet in China today, these types of exploitation has reached right to the maximum edge.  For many years, the government has spent all its efforts on patching things up, because the moment that the speed of development (=degree of exploitation of the ecology) slows down, various social crises will explode.  The increasing way by which everything is linked together made such shocks echo throughout the adminstrative system.  Once a crisis starts, it will become "administrative crisis -> decreased production -> social disturbance' repeating itself deeper and deeper.  By that time, even if the established power is overthrown, society will continue to be stuck in a vicious downward spiral from which it cannot extract itself.

The analogy is that a society without a cultural framework and an ecological foundation is like walking on a steel wire.  Once you lose your balance, you will fall right down to the bottom.  There is no chance of falling down half way and then getting back up on the steel wire.  So let us not even talk about whether China has the conditions ripe for a revolution.  If there were a real revolution, everyone will be brought to ruin together.

The war for the power is the same, and the effectiveness of violence is not unlimited.  Once a society loses the support by a cultural framework, there would be more conflicts than cooperation between people and between groups.  The fight over the limited ecological resources will increase the competition for them and the conflicts will increase while productions will continue to shrink.  By that time, the world will be full of starving people running around looking for food, so what power is there left to fight for?  To win the country and win over territory is just seeking more trouble for oneself.

I have asked Qin Hui what the bandits were looting for during the historical times when it was said that all the houses were emptied and corpses were strewn everywhere.  Qin Hui said they were collecting people -- for food.  In those days, production was about preserving human meat in big vats for later consumption.

But the population back then was not more than one third of the population today and the ecological conditions were a lot of better than now.  Still, they fell into that kind of conditions.  Therefore, we cannot think that "when the car reaches the mountain, the road will appear on its own."  To blindly believe that "Great Order will emerge after Great Chaos (大乱达到大治)" is just wishful thinking.  Once we embark on "change things first and then let us see (先变再说)", we will push China over the track of political unity onto another track which may bring us and all of China down the abyss of destruction.




造反和战争必定冲击秩序,破坏管理,从而降低社会对生态“深层”的压榨。然而对今天中国,这种压榨已经不容松懈半分。之所以多年政府全部精力在于 “保七保八”,就是因为发展速度(压榨程度)一降,各种社会危机就可能随之爆发。日益紧密的 “一体化”又使管理体系越发容易发生连锁震荡,乱一个开头,就会进入“管理紊乱→产出减少→社会动乱”这样不断加深的循环。那时,即使能够推翻旧政权,社会也将继续陷在这一循环坠落中难以自拔。