The Great Xiangyin Massacre

Here are several reports coming from Xiangyin county (Hunan province).  Could they possibly be about the same events?  So what really happened in Xiangyin?  Welcome to the world of Internet rumors in a time of untransparent official information.  This is proof that the Internet is not ready to displace mainstream media.  It could in some cases, but it requires great self-discipline.  And this case is just a total disaster.  I have preserved the whole lot here just to show you what my reading experience had been in chronological order.

(Boxun)  August 5, 2006.

(in translation)

Yesterday, the Yueyang (Hunan) armed police killed close to 100 migrants!

According to migrant rights worker Hong Yunzhou from Liushan town, Hubei province: It is possible that Yueyang (Hunan) police opened fire and killed close to 100 migrant worker rights defenders yesterday!  During the process of armed suppression of the migrants, there were also casualties among the armed police and the local government bureaucrats.  Yueyang city has been placed under a curfew.  Reportedly, the central and Hunan provincial governments have sent officials to Yueyang to handle the matter.

Human rights activists are heading towards Yueyang to try to understand the situation.  More details will be available tonight around 8pm.

The Chinese people are being subjected to wider and ever more brutal armed suppression and massacres!

The Chinese Communist Party tolerates local corrupt officials, and the local exploitation of the local people by these local corrupt officials is the basic reason for the resistance and suppression!

An old warrior who will never give up making China more democratic: Zhou Zhirong.

(Boxun) August 5, 2006.

(in translation)

According to Hubei province Chibi city migrant rights defender Hong Yunzhou's information at 9pm: According to a shrimp merchant in Xiangyin county who came originally from Yanglinzhai and who does not wish to disclose his name: On August 2, Hunan province Xiangyin county migrants went to petition at the city government because the compensation for land requisition had been stolen by local corrupt officials.  The Xiangyin county government did not accept the petition in accordance with the law, and called out the police to suppress the petitioners.  During the process, the petitioners clashed with the police and inflicted numerous casualties on the police.  The local government officials called in the armed police to conduct a bloody oppression.  It was said that more than 100 petitioners have been killed by gunfire.

Presently, Xiangyin county has been placed under a curfew.  The central government has sent a working group to Xiangyin county to investigate and handle the "August 2 tragic massacre of migrant petitioners."

According to the feedback from Hong Yunzhou, the government has imposed a blockade on information.  All those in the know have been severely threatened: they will be severely punished if they disclose the tragedy to the outside!

This afternoon, someone from the Hunan public security bureau called me to warn me not to get involved in the Xiangyin tragedy.  This indirectly proved that there had been a tragic massacre of migrants in Xiangyin, Hunan.

I have asked the human rights workers in Changsha (Hunan) to proceed quickly to Xiangyin to understand the truth about the tragedy!

"I take a deep sigh and I let my tears come down as I say, The lives of the poor Chinese people are so full of disasters and setbacks!!!"

Please pay close attention to the tragic massacre of the migrant workers in Xiangyin (Hunan)!

(Apple Daily)  August 7, 2006.

(in translation)

"We must continue to work for our migrants.  The compatriots of Yanglinzhai are part of the 700,000 people in Xiangyin.  We are all brothers and sisters and we should respect and love each other to build a nice home for us ..."  While the Xiangyin (Hunan) county government said on August 1st that they must deal work for the migrants, the armed police suppressed the Yanglinzhai migrants on the next day.  According to mainland migrant rights representative Hong Yunzhou, the armed police opened fire and caused the deaths of more than 100 people.  Yesterday, nearly all the telephones in Xiangyin county were blocked and the government has not made any public announcements.  The whole matter is getting more mysterious.

Our newspaper called the Xiangyin county government and public security bureau, but we could not make contact with any local officials.  An Xiangyin county fireworks factory owner said that he has heard of a police-citizen clash but he had no comment.  A Xiangyin funeral home female worker said that there had been no recent case of Yanglinzhai resident at the home, but she has heard of a disturbance by the Yanglinzhai migrants between July 31 and August 1.

The Boxun website quoted Hong Yunzhou that armed police from Yueyang shot and killed more than 100 migrant rights demonstrators from Yanglinzhai, but provided no further details.  As to why the Yanglinzhai migrants clashed with the armed police, there are two versions.  In one version, the migrants came to petition at the city government because their local officials took the compensation money from land requisition.  The government brought in the public security to suppress the petitioners, who attacked and inflicted casualties on the public security.  So the local government officials called in the armed police to effect a bloody suppression.

In the other version, the August 2 suppression by the armed police was related to the July 25 incident in which criminal elements among the Yanglinzhai migrants created a disturbance in Xiangyin.  The authorities have defined the July 25 incident as a public safety dispute without explaining the details.

Yet, various blogs have provided detailed descriptions of the July 25 incident.  Yanglinzhai town is under the jurisdiction of Xiangyin county.  Most of the people in Yanglinzhai town are migrants from Xinhua county in Xiangxi.  Over the years, these migrants could not co-exist peacefully with the locals and there had been mass fights that only increased the hostility.  On July 25, more than 300 Yanglinzhai migrants who had trouble with Xiangyin hooligans came in three trucks and went about beating people and vandalizing businesses.  They even laid seige to the public security bureau.  During the rampage, they killed three passersby, including two children and they injured dozens of people.  Afterwards, they took four hostages back to Yanglinzhai town.

The Xiangyin county citizens were disgusted with the timidity and impotence of the county government and public security bureau and they demonstrated in front of the public security bureau and demanded an expeditious handling of the affair.  The local government brought in armed police officers and the People's Liberation Army to handle the matter.  Many netizens described the incident as "The Xiangyin (Hunan) Killings" and "Bloodshed in Luocheng."  As for the police-citizen clash and the shooting incident, that remains to be revealed.

(Diaoyu Islands Forum)  Bloodshed in Luocheng -- my beloved hometown

(in translation)

Around noon July 25, several rioters (from Yanglinzhai) entered the city by car and then promptly began the killings.  A little boy got off a bus just then and was murdered.  Then the rioters headed south until they reached the Number One Middle School, and then they continued south.  They all wore red bandanas for identification and they held steel poles, machetes, guns and dynamite sticks.  The rioters washed Xiangyin with blood.  

My mother and elder sister were at the police station next to the post office and they were about to come out, but the police stopped them.  They are still scared right now as they recalled the sight of the group of rioters.  After achieving some of their goals, the rioters dispersed as some headed west along Jiangdong Road.  My friend and I got out of the Internet bar, we went south along Shengshu Road to Jiangdong Road and then we went east and turned north at Liangyuan.  We got to Taifu Gardens and turned west and sought shelter at the public security bureau.  The rioters stopped in front of the public security bureau, staged a confrontation for several tens of minutes and then they fired a few shots into the air before heading west.  I saw some terrible things along the way.  Whenever shots were heard, there were people running.  All the shops were closed.  Some of the store fronts and cars were vandalized.  At the public security bureau, I was too near the scene and the shots were loud.  

Whenever shots were fired, everybody started running.  I almost lost my bicycle because I could not move among the many people.  Later on, my friend and I went south, then west and then north in order to arrive at the courthouse before the rioters.  But by the time that we got there, the rioters have left and gone to the bridge.  We saw the crowds and the vandalized store fronts.  A university student bleeding in the head was carried out and taken to the hospital.  During the looting by the Yanglinzhai rioters, a large Internet bar had all 100 machines robbed; more than a dozen entertainment and barber shops were vandalized; businesses grounded to a halt in the city; three people were killed, including two children (one eight years old and the other thirteen years old); twenty to thirty people were injured; more people were seized as hostages and taken to Yanglinzhai.

I turned around and went back to the public security bureau.  It was clamorous as numerous citizens were gathered in the courtyard to demand the government take revenge and kill the rioters, as well as to protest against the impotence of the government.  At a time of great danger, all the government officials and police officers hid in their offices, so that many innocent people died or suffered serious injuries.  The people got angry and started to throw mineral water bottles at the police and government leaders.  Some even attempted to overturn police cars.  It was a rowdy scene.

County mayor Zhou Yougen and county party secretary Lai Sheguang appeared and tried to get the crowd to disperse.  But they were attacked by the angry people and held hostage.  The people demanded Lai Sheguang take the lead to wrought revenge.  Lai and others refused.  So the people took them by force to the bridge, but the rioters had left by then.  By this time, there were tens of thousands of people already.  Lai Sheguang and others tried to leave by getting into a jeep.  The people flipped over the jeep and were about to set it on fire.  Later, these county leaders sneaked away.  Meanwhile many people got steel poles, machetes and wooden sticks and went around with the several tens of thousands of people behind them to vandalize the stores owned by Yanglinzhai people.  The crowd went up to Taifu Garden and then turned around.  Down Shengshu road, they attacked a Yanglinzhai woman near the Number Five Middle School.  I squeezed through the crowd and I saw what happened.  It was an appalling sight.  I turned back.  Later, the huge crowd continued south and then turned east on Jiangdong Road.  They vandalized an Internet bar and a hotel owned by people from Yanglinzhai.  In the evening, eighteen carloads of armed police officers arrived and took post in the city.  They went with the marching demonstrators in order to lessen public anger.  When the people saw those police arrive, some of them set off firecrackers to celebrate the fact that they will be safe.  That night, the Xiangyin command center to maintain public order issued bulletin number one.  The next day (that is today, July 26), another twelve carloads of People's Liberation Army soldiers arrived in the morning and are posted in the surrounding areas of Yanglinzhai.

(Sing Tao)  August 7, 2006.

(in translation)

Late last month, there was a serious clash between different groups in Xiangyin county, Yueyang city, Hunan province.  On July 25, there was a riot involving several hundred people.  Later on, several hundred citizens were unhappy with the "inaction" of the public security bureau during the rioting and so they surrounded and assaulted the government/party office building.  It was rumored that the county party secretary and the mayor were injured and there were even deaths (including two small children) in the riot.  The riots have continued and still have not been totally pacified up to the day before yesterday.

According to the news on the Xiangyin county government website, a "small number of criminal elements" from Wenxing town and Yanglinzhai town took advantage of a local argument on July 25 and "incited a number of citizens who did not know the truth to begin a series of criminal activities including assembling to disrupt social order, vandalizing, looting and assaulting government/party offices."  The county public security bureau issued a notice that if the criminal elements turned themselves and their weapons in, they may be subjected to more lenient treatment.

According to a Ms. Gong who works in Yanglinzhai and was interviewed by this newspaper, the riot started as a result between towns people.  The reason was that the local people from Xiangyin county had vandalized the shops run by migrants from the outside earlier.  On the next day, about two hundred migrants got together and marched with banners, and a clash resulted.  "Our county government could not deal with it, and so they asked for several hundred armed police officers to be sent here."

Combining the forum posts at many mainland websites, the incident became with an argument on July 23 between a person from Yanglinzhai town and certain local people.  So a bunch of local hooligans went and vandalized the store of the person from Yanglinzhai.  Around noon on July 25, more than 300 Yanglinzhai people arrived at the Xiangyin county by car, bringing machetes, home-made shotguns, iron and wooden poles, and other weapons.  They went around and vandalized the local stores and then they blockaded the public security bureau while shooting into the air.  At this point, a large group of city hooligans arrived and said that they wanted to chase the Yanglinzhai people out of Xiangyin.

That afternoon, a large group of residents gathered in the courtyard of the county public security bureau and demanded compensation from the government for business losses and to arrest the perpetrators.  But the county leadership did not respond.  When the county party secretary and mayor came out eventually to mediate, they were attacked.  Eyewitnesses said that the county party secretary was held hostage by the crowd at one point, while blood was pouring out of his head.  That evening, the provincial government sent out several hundred riot police to the scene and quelled the disturbance.

(Boxun)  August 7, 2006.

(in translation)

Mr. Zhou, have you investigated personally?  I want to know the truth of the matter.  My understanding is that the incident that you described for August 3 did not occur.  What you described should be the same incident as the one on July 24-25.  At the time, the two largest television stations in Hunan -- the Economic Channel and the Satellite Channel -- were not allowed to report on this.  The Yueyang city government sent more than 500 armed police officers over there.  VOA reported it under the title: Chinese government oppressed peasant uprising.

There was a riot by gangsters in Xiangyin (Hunan) on July 24-25.  More than twenty commercial stores were vandalized, many people were injured, all the businesses were closed, the people were worried, the county party secretary and mayor were assaulted and Yueyang sent more than 1,000 armed police officers to quell the disturbance.  The Hunan Economic Channel and Hunan Satellite TV did not report it.

Here is a re-capitulation:

(1) On July 24, at the Golden Emperor entertainment facility in Xiangyin, a man named Xiaosanyang had a quarrel with a man from Yanglinzhai.  The man from Yanglinzhai then brought more than twenty people from Yanglinzhai over and beat Xiaosanyang until he was severely injured.

(2) On July 24, a group of Xiangyin hooligans gathered at the Golden Emperor to discuss how to take "revenge."  They were overheard by two people from Yanglinzhai who were looking for information.  Unfortunately, the two people were identified and the mob beat them until they were severely injured.

(3) On the evening of July 24 around 930pm, the hooligans assembled at the Golden Emperor came out and began to go down Jiangdong road vandalizing all the stores owned by Yanglinzhai people.  Seven of the bigger shops were vandalized, including entertainment facilities, restaurants and barber shops.

(4) On the morning of July 25, the Xiangyin party committee held an emergency meeting (beginning at 1030am) and asked all department to focus on safety and stability and prevent the incident from worsening.  It was decided that the damages to the stores on the evening of July 24 will be paid for by the Civil Affairs Bureau.

(5) At noon on July 25, three big buses carrying more than three hundred people from Yanglinzhai arrived at Xiangyin.  Most of them were young people who wore red ribbons on their heads and arms.  They held weapons including long machetes, homemade guns, iron bars and wooden sticks.  The route taken by the people from Yanglinzhai was: The Bridge -- Vanguard Road -- Jiangdong Road -- Taifu Road -- Dongmao Road -- Public security bureau.  Along the way, they battered all the shops (because they believed that the hooligans operate them).  The front doors were smashed, the contents were destroyed and they also fired their guns into the air.  When they hear dissent from the citizens, they attacked them and killed an innocent eight-year-old girl.  When they see citizens who look like hooligans, they charge up to slash and beat them (their definition of hooligans are people with characteristics such as dyed hair or tattoos).  

When the people from Yanglinzhai arrived at the public security bureau, they blockaded the entrance and they fired their guns into the air to show off.  They forbade people from taking photographs and videos.  When they saw people taking photographs, they seized the equipment.  At the time, county party secretary Lai Sheguang and other leaders were inside the public security bureau, but they did not come out even after the people from Yanglinzhai moved away.

The people from Yanglinzhai left the public security bureau at around 2:30pm (it was rumored that they received information that the hooligans were gathering and ready to come over.  Later on, it was rumored that the Xiangyin hooligans were bolstered by "supporting squads" from Baima town, Lizi town, Guotong town, Sanfenglu town and other places; more hooligans were coming from Miluo, Guyuan and Baishiu in Lianlin county.  These other groups came under the slogan of chasing all Yanglinzhai people away).  As the people of Yanglinzhai retreated, they seized four hooligans (another rumor says twelve) and brought them over to the Xiangyin Xiangjiang Bridge (this is the bridge that leads to Yanglinzhai).  The prisoners were forced to kneel in the middle of the bridge as public display, and then the prisoners were taken back to Yanglinzhai as hostages.

(6) While the people from Yanglinzhai left the public security office, the business people who suffered damages, the citizens who were injured and hooligans went to see the county leaders at the public security bureau.  The business people wanted the government to pay for their damages.  The citizens wanted the government to arrest the perpetrators.  The hooligans wanted the government to promise to "let the people take care of this themselves (that is, to let the people go and deal with the people from Yanglinzhai) and the government must promise not to arrest anyone for doing so."  The county leaders did not respond.  At the time, some of the police officers began to assemble and put on their bullet-proof vests and helmets.  The crowd clapped and cheered.  But soon, the police officers took off their equipment and disbanded.  The crowd began to complain that the government was incompetent and could not protect the properties and lives of the people.  The crowd began to be disturbed.  

Someone found that the county party secretary and some deputy mayors were observing from one corner of the office building.  So the crowd surrounded them and some people began to throw mineral water bottles.  Someone poured a bottle of water on the county party secretary's head.  Someone else punched the county mayor and his deputies.  The police came over to protect their mayor and secretary (but why wouldn't they protect the people who were getting assaulted outside?).  An old lady in the crowd said it best as she tugged away at the uniform of a police officer: "If you peel off your skin and let us wear it, we will do better."  It was rumored that Lai Sheguang was so scared that he began to foam in the mouth and had to be taken to the hospital.  The other county leaders also left the public security bureau.

(7) At 5pm, Yueyang city sent over five carloads of special police officers who were sent to Yanglinzhai to retrieve the kidnapped hostages.  By that time, more and more people were assembled at the public security bureau.  Since there was no satisfactory answer, a lot of hooligans then followed the route taken by the people from Yanglinzhai and vandalized the stores owned by people from Yanglinzhai.  They assaulted several people who were guarding those stores even as the spectators cheered them on.  The entire street was filled with people.

Between 3pm and 5pm, a large group of people was assembled in the courtyard of the public security bureau.  They wanted the county leaders to go to the bridge to rescue the kidnapped hostages (at the time, the people of Yanglinzhai had the hostages kneeling on the bridge, and the parents of the hostages were kneeling and begging the people from Yanglinzhai to let their children go).  A county leader said:  "There is no such thing.  I'll send someone over and make a report to see if they see anything."  This made the crowd very angry again and the remaining county leaders were quickly led out by the police escort while screaming "Leave quickly!  Leave quickly!"  By that time, there was no leadership at the public security bureau.  The crowd got angrier and angrier.  By around 5pm, several hundred masked men were chanting for "revenge."

(8) In the evening, the residents of Xiangyin came out and assembled at the public security bureau, the county party/government office and the Xiangjiang Bridge.  When they heard that the provincial government had sent 30 carloads of special office (including two carloads of police dogs), the crowd clapped and cheered the cars as they passed, with people shouting out slogans.  At 10pm, the crowd on the bridge said that only the Yueyang special police crossed the bridge.  The other special police sent by the provincial government were still awaiting orders and have not crossed the bridge yet.

(Kyodo News via Yahoo! Asia) 100 killed after Chinese police open fire on protesters: reports.  August 7, 2006.

About 100 people were killed when police opened fire on protesters in central China last week, media reports said Monday.

The clash between 1,000 police officers and hundreds of protesters who had been staged protests since late July occurred in Hunan Province last Wednesday.

According to media in Hong Kong and mainland China, the protests over the past weeks were caused by disputes between two villages in the province's Xiangyin County.

Hong Kong's Commercial Radio quoted the provincial government's news department as saying the police officers were deployed to handle the protests but "strongly denied persecuting or killing" any protester.

The department said people in the two villages had a dispute that originated in a night club and the dispute spread. Police took action to contain the situation, it said.

Hong Kong's Apple Daily quoted Chinese human rights defender Hong Yunzhou as saying police opened fire and killed about 100 people after failing to disperse the protesters who had gathered to complain to the Yueyang city government.

According to the Chinese-language daily, one of two possible causes was that conflicts between a group of migrants and local communities broke out July 23 and led to a riot July 25 when about 300 villagers started ransacking shops and surrounded the police station and government buildings in protest.

The report said two top county officials were beaten up by villagers before riot police arrived and killed three people, including two children on July 25.

The other possible cause was that villagers whose lands were claimed without receiving sufficient compensation went to complain at the city government and were met with gunfire, the Apple Daily said.

The villagers began to stage protests against the country government and authorities for not handling the dispute properly, according to the report.

The county government and the county's Public Security Bureau issued separate statements regarding the July 25 riot, which was called "7.25 public order dispute incident."

Two country government statements issued Aug. 1 said the case has been "swiftly handled and Xiangyin has been stabilized and people are back to their normal lives."

The Public Security Bureau statement, which was issued one day after the massive clash confirmed the dispute but did not mention the number of protesters, police officers or casualties.

Phone calls made to the bureau chief were not returned. A provincial government staff reached Monday said he has not heard of the incident.

(SCMP)  19 villagers hurt as rivals riot over disco beating.  By Minnie Chan.  August 10, 2006.

At least 19 villagers were injured in three days of rioting last month between rival clans in Xiangyin county, Hunan province , before order was restored by police, Xinhua reported yesterday.  The official news agency said 10 shops were ransacked and three police cars overturned during the chaos. A county official was quoted as saying the riots were not due to the "suppression of petitioners", as reported in overseas media. 

According to Xinhua, the riots were triggered by a dispute between villager Feng Shuwen, from Wenxin township, and Liu Sai , from Yanglinzhai village, outside a disco on July 23.  The report said Mr Feng was beaten by a gang outside the disco and in the following days, villagers from the two sides fought, despite mediation efforts by local officials.  "But a small number of villagers would not listen to local officials and police," Xinhua said. "They resorted to violent acts and as a result, 19 were injured."

The report said more police were sent to the county on July 25 to restore order.  "Police began to patrol key areas and traffic intersections of Xiangyin county," Xinhua said. "The public welcomed the arrival of police, who persuaded the two sides to remain calm."  The report insisted police did not have a confrontation with the rioters, but it did not say whether any instigators were arrested.

News of the riots was broken by a US-based Chinese news website, which said several villagers were killed - a claim denied by officials.