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Tens of thousands of Chinese fight the police in Shishou City, Central China

Posted by Author on June 22, 2009

By Malcolm Moore, The Telegraph, UK, June 22nd, 2009 –

It was a dramatic weekend
in the relatively small city of Shishou in Hubei province.

Tens of thousands of rioters torched a hotel and overturned police cars, accusing the authorities of trying to cover up the murder of a 24-year-old man as a suicide.

police cars overturned in Shishou City (from QQ)

police cars overturned in Shishou City (from QQ)

The deceased, Tu Yuangao, was the chef of the Yong Long hotel. According to the cops, he committed suicide by jumping off the roof of the building and left a note.

However, witnesses said there was no blood on the scene and Tu’s body was already cold just after it hit the ground. His parents were surprised that he left a suicide note, since he was allegedly illiterate.

There are plenty of rumours flying around – that two other employees at the hotel had died in the same way, that the boss of the hotel is related to the mayor of Shishou, that the hotel was a centre for the local drug business and Yu was killed for threatening to expose what was going on. There’s also a rumour that three further bodies have been found at the hotel.

There are more details and photos here (EastWestNorthSouth).

It’s a strange story, and it gets stranger. A huge mob, of anywhere between a few thousand to 70,000 people, depending on which report you read, quickly gathered outside the building to protect the body. Tu’s parents refused to let his corpse be taken away, claiming that it held vital evidence of the crime, and instead placed it inside the hotel on ice.

The crowd beat back waves of policemen. On Saturday, someone lit a fire inside the hotel, possibly to destroy the body, but it was saved.

Tu’s cousin apparently then armed himself with two barrels of gasoline and threatened to blow himself up if the body was taken.

The police restored order yesterday, imposed a curfew and took the corpse to a funeral parlour. There is still a lot of anger, however, and the website of the local government has been defaced by hackers.

What’s extraordinary is the speed in which the riot blew up, and the venom directed against the local authorities. Whatever was behind Tu’s death, there’s clearly something rotten in Shishou.

After months of calm, there have recently been a spate of riots being reported in the Chinese media, or on the internet.

Is this because media restrictions have been lifted, allowing news of riots to spread, or has there been a genuine increase in social tension in the countryside?

It is impossible to tell. China no longer publishes the figures for how many riots take place each year, but most people put the figure at around 80,000 and the vast majority go totally unnoticed.

The fact that there have been a dozen riots reported in the last couple of months may not demonstrate anything out of the ordinary. There is no theme that connects the recent protests – some are about property, some are work disputes, some are because of corruption.

But then again, a huge number of migrant workers are still out of work. Their factories have not recovered from the economic crisis. In the countryside, the harvest is finished and people’s savings may be running low. Perhaps the tinderbox is drier than usual.

UPDATE:  Overnight between Sunday and Monday over a thousand students rioted at Nanjing Industrial Technical School, smashing windows, television sets, their teacher’s cars and an on-campus supermarket.

A policeman was attacked, but the crowd was eventually subdued by hundreds of anti-riot police, according to blogs written by participants.

The students were enraged after being told that they would only graduate with a technical degree (the equivalent of high-school diploma) rather than the associate degree (just underneath a normal bachelor’s degree) they were promised at enrollment.

The Telegraph

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