The Shishou Mass Incident

(Associated Press)  Police disperse protesters after clashes in China.  By Gillian Wong.  June 21, 2009.

Hundreds of baton-wielding police on Sunday dispersed protesters and cordoned off a city hotel in central China after a young man's mysterious death sparked unrest, a local official and a witness said.

More than 200 people were injured in the clashes between police and residents outside the hotel in Hubei province's Shishou city, according to a Hong Kong-based rights group, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

Hundreds had been angered by the death of 24-year old Tu Yuangao, who was found dead Wednesday evening in front of the Yonglong hotel. Tu's relatives believe he was killed by the hotel boss, who is related to the mayor, the rights group said.

Discontent with local officials and police in China often leads to mass protests, which can gather size and force with remarkable speed. Mild frustration can turn into fury within minutes.

A local resident surnamed Chen said protesters started gathering outside the hotel Friday and by late Saturday had clashed five or six times with police, smashing six police vans and fire trucks. Chen said thousands of armed police forces with shields and batons were deployed in the area. The crowd started dispersing early Sunday, but security was tight, he said. "The area around the hotel is still cordoned off by hundreds of police with batons," Chen said in a telephone interview Sunday.

A man who answered the phone at the Shishou government said the crowd dispersed after local authorities persuaded them to leave and that there had been no conflicts since Saturday afternoon. The man, who refused to give his name, said authorities were investigating the death of Tu, whose body was moved from the hotel to a funeral parlor Sunday. Chinese media reported that police ruled out murder, saying they found a suicide note.

Amateur video clips of the protest posted online showed hundreds of riot police marching down a street to reinforce a human barricade formed by officers who held their shields above their heads, supported by police vans and fire trucks. In one clip, hundreds of protesters were seen surging toward police, picking up objects from the ground and hurling them at the officers, who retreated. The video appeared to be posted by a U.S.-based user on YouTube, which is blocked in China. It could not be independently verified.


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(DWnews)  More than 1,000 armed policemen repelled but returned to the scene; Internet suspended in Shishou city.  June 21, 2009.

At around 7:30pm on June 17, 2009, a death occurred at the Yonglong Hotel in Shishou city, Hubei province.  The 23-year-old male chef Tu Yuangao fell from the third floor and died instantaneously.

According to eyewitnesses, the police came and pronounced the death to be a suicide.  However, Tu's relatives believed the death to be suspicious in nature, because there were blood clots in his nostrils and ears whereas there was no sign of blood at the spot where the body came to rest.

Two years ago, there was a similar death at this hotel when a female worker also died in the identical manner.  At the time, the hotel paid 30,000 RMB in compensation.  It is also alleged that in 1999, a woman was raped and then thrown downstairs.  It is alleged that a Shishou city government leader has a stake in this hotel, where business has always been bad but drug dealing on the side allowed the hotel to continue to operate.  Drug addicts in Shishou city are willing to testify that drugs were being sold at the hotel.

After the death occurred, the hotel boss avoided meeting with the family of Tu Yuangao.  On June 18, the family was told that they would receive 30,000 RMB if they accept the death as suicide.  If they refuse, then the body will be forcibly taken at 8pm that evening to the funeral parlor for cremation.

After the incident, the police urged the family of Tu Yuangao to cremate the body.  Someone also ordered the funeral parlor to refuse to rent a refrigerated coffin to the family.  The daytime temperature is over 30 degrees Centigrade in Shishou right now.  The family is holding the body inside the hotel and they insist on having their doubts answered before cremation.  The father Tu Yuangao has procured a can of liquid gas and swears that he will blow himself up along with anyone who attempts to remove the body.  Sympathizers gathered in front of the hotel as the story spread around.

At around 1am on June 19, 2009, police cars showed up with a funeral parlor car to take the body away.  2,000 people blocked their way in front of the hotel.

At 8am on June 19, Tu Yuangao had died more than 36 hours ago.  The angry crowd refused to disperse.  Several hundred of them had voluntarily stayed overnight to guard the body.  Sympathizers erected banners and began a signature collection campaign.  The police showed again to try to remove the body by force.  They clashed with the masses present, injuring more than a dozen sympathizers and spectators.  The injured civilians were not sent to hospital for treatment.  Instead they were shipped directly to the police detention center. 

This caused the antagonism between the people and the police to rise.  More and more people rushed to the scene.  With their numerical superiority, the people held the upper hand as they beat back the police again and again.  Tu Tuangao's body was  secured.

At around 1pm, several thousand people used bricks and beer bottles to stop the police from taking the body of Tu Yuangao.  The funeral parlor car was vandalized.  Several dozen uniformed and plainclothes police officers were chased from the scene (at Yonglong Hotel) for more than 500 meters until they found shelter at the bus shelter.  The major streets around the bus station were blocked by the masses.  Buses had to be re-routed but it was claimed that most of the passengers did not complain.

At 3pm on June 19, the local police organized the largest effort to seize the body but failed again.  By this time, the crowd had reached the highest total of about 40,000 persons.  The Shishou city government had to ask for the armed police to assist.

On the evening of June 19, a battalion of armed police was dispatched from Jingzhou and other places.  The local people used rocks and beer bottles to fight the armed police.  Many public security vehicles and armed police vehicles were vandalized.  The armed police withdrew because too many people were out there.

During the night of June 19, it was rumored that the government would try to seize the body at 5am on June 20.  10,000 Shishou city resident stayed in the streets.  They blocked the front of the Yonglong Hotel as well as all the major roads in the city.

At around 2am, June 20, more than 500 police officers and armed police officers got into formation and proceeded towards the hotel to seize the body.  When they reached the vaccine station nearby, citizens attacked them with bricks and rocks.  The police officers and armed police officers withdrew.  The crowd chased them for about 1 kilometer.  Police vehicles were toppled.  The crowd did not lose their vigilance just because the armed police withdrew, as many people continued to stay in front of the hotel.  During the early morning clashes of June 19 and 20, several dozen citizens were injured or arrested.  Many police officers and armed police officers were also injured.

In order to prevent the news from spreading, the Internet cafes in Shishou stopped service on the night of June 20.  Electricity was also cut off in the area of Yonglong Hotel for a while.  The street lamps were turned off.  According to information, the family of Tu Yuangao and other citizens called up the media in Beijing and Wuhan.  But the reporters rushing over there were turned away by local government officials.

At 6am on June 21, the body of Tu Yuangao was still laying in the Yonglong Hotel.  More than 1,000 people were present in front of the hotel.  As daylight came, more citizens came out.  At around 7am, people as the scene used SMS to say that a large contingent of armed police officers was heading towards the hotel in at least eight armored anti-riot vehicles and six water-cannon firetrucks.  Another clash seemed unavoidable.


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(Northnews.cn)  June 21, 2009.

In the early morning of June 20, the situation worsened as a small group of criminal elements fomented trouble and started a fire at the hotel where the incident took place.  They instigated the spectators who did not know the truth to attack the firefighters and public security militia police officers who came to put out the fire.  Many police officers were injured.  Some of the fire trucks and police vehicles were toppled and vandalized.

After the incident occurred, the central government leader comrades paid a high degree of attention and instructed that the matter be dealt with.  The public security department, the armed police headquarters, the Hunan provincial and Jingzhou city party and government leaders formed a leader committee and went to personally supervise at the scene.  On one hand, they comforted the family and guaranteed their safety while communicating the truth of the incident to society through many channels quickly.  On the other hand, they increased their alertness, dispersed the crowds, restored public order and prevented the incident from escalating.  After many negotiations, the family of the deceased has agreed to move the body to the funeral parlor where an autopsy will be conducted.

At this time, the cause of death is being investigated and order has returned to normal in Shishou city.


How The Shishou Police Dispersed The Crowd (06/28/2009)  (Yazhou Zhoukan)


Photo from Southern Metropolis Weekly

At around noon on June 20, the size of the crowd assembled on the streets outside the Yonglong Hotel reached its peak.  Participants estimated that there were at least 50,000 people at the time.  Street rumors was that the upper levels of government has amassed large numbers of armed police officers and military soldiers for suppressive action.

That afternoon, a large number of procuratorate workers and plainclothes police officers joined the crowd and used mobile phone cameras and digital cameras and videocameras to gather information on members of the crowd.  Some citizens recognized them and quickly stayed away from them.  At around 4am on June 21, the government loudspeaker trucks traversed the city streets and claimed that a "settlement" has been reached with the family of the deceased.  Therefore, the spectators should leave quickly or else face the consequences.

But because of the message from the loudspeaker trucks, many of the tired people actually returned to the scene to await further developments.  The size of the crowd went back up to its peak again.  An hour later at 5am on June 21, there came the thundering sound of marching footsteps.  Someone shouted, "They are really coming."  The crowd then saw more than 10,000 policemen and soldiers coming down three streets and applying pressure on the crowd.  The policemen and soldiers were arrayed in rows and moved forward together.

After blocking off the streets, the soldiers took charge of the streets.  Their formation consists four rows of soldiers in each wave, with the waves about 20 meters apart from each other.  The soldiers were armed with batons and shields, and they chanted slogans at the crowd.  The crowd was gradually pushed inwards.  Panic caused the crowd to flee into the side streets and buildings.  Whenever the soldiers take over a street segment, they set up a police line and prevented people from entering or exiting.  Therefore, the crowd had to flee towards the side streets that were even further away.

At the same time, all mobile phone signals in the area were gone.  Someone recognized a government signal interference truck there.  At around 6am, the soldiers cleared out the streets and the government took charge of the refrigerator casket which held the body of the deceased.  A member of the crowd asked the soldiers what was happening.  The soldiers who came from outside Shishou said that they were ordered to suppress FLG rioters.  They had never heard of anything about the death, or the body, or the injustice, etc.  They were just carrying out orders.  On that morning before the sun rose, the Shishou crowd was completely dispersed.


(Associated Press)  China dismisses local leaders after angry protest.  July 26, 2009.

BEIJING X The Communist Party boss of a Chinese city and head of law enforcement were dismissed Saturday for mishandling violent protests last month after a young man's mysterious death, a state news agency said.

About 1,000 people gathered June 19 after the 24-year-old chef was found dead outside a hotel in Shishou city in central Hubei province. Police said he killed himself, but rumors spread that he was killed by gangsters or the hotel boss.

Protesters blocked roads, smashed windows and set fire to the hotel while preventing police from moving the body, the official Xinhua News Agency reported at the time. An amateur video clip posted online showed hundreds of protesters surging toward police, picking up objects from the ground and hurling them at the officers, who retreated.

More than 200 people were injured, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

"Shishou officials did not act until after about 80 hours of silence, fueling rampant rumors which resulted in unrest when angry locals obstructed two streets, burned the hotel and smashed several vehicles," Xinhua reported Saturday.

It said Zhong Ming, the city's party secretary, and Tang Dunwu, a party official in charge of law enforcement, were dismissed for their "improper decision" in responding to the incident.

Discontent with local officials and police in China often leads to mass protests, which can gather in size and force with remarkable speed. Mild frustration can turn into fury within minutes.


(Xinhua)  8 sentenced to jail over unrest after chef's death in central China province    October 18, 2009.

A local court Saturday sentenced eight people to jail terms ranging from five years to two years and a half for disrupting public order in Shishou City, central China's Hubei Province, in June after the death of a chef.   Ten people stood on trial at the People's Court in Shishou Saturday. The court announced leniency to two of the accused by exempting them from criminal punishment. The eight sentenced people included cousin and brothers of 24-year-old Tu Yuangao, a chef whose body was found lying at the gate of the Yonglong Hotel in Shishou in the evening of June 17. An autopsy and X-rays and tests for poisons carried out by experts from the Ministry of Public Security and Tongji Medical Institute showed Tu committed suicide. The court found that Tu's cousin Tu Xiaoyu and brothers seek compensation from the hotel, and stirred up the unrest by blocking traffic, which left 62 security guards and policemen injured, and 16 police vehicles damaged. Tu Xiaoyu was held as principal in the unrest. She was sentenced to five years in prison.


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Related Link: The Social Mosaic of Shishou