Go here to read a gruesome, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking first-hand account of Shanghai-based Guardian reporter Benjamin Joffe-Walt’s attempt to report from Taishi, a village in Guangdong, site of what Joffe-Walt calls “perhaps the most significant grassroots social movement China has seen since the Cultural Revolution, a rural revolt against corruption, against deterioration of healthcare, against the illegal sale of farmland, and broadly against urban capitalism that has reaped no benefits for these farmers.” (For more on Taishi, visit ESWN.) Joffe-Walt never actually got to Taishi. He was on his way there with democracy activist Lu Banglie, when their car was stopped and Lu was brutally beaten, perhaps to death:
The men outside shouted among themselves and those in uniform suddenly left. Those remaining started pushing on the car, screaming at us to get out. They pointed flashlights at us, and when the light hit Mr Lu’s face, it was as if a bomb had gone off. They completely lost it. They pulled him out and bashed him to the ground, kicked him, pulverised him, stomped on his head over and over again. The beating was loud, like the crack of a wooden board, and he was unconscious within 30 seconds.
They continued for 10 minutes. The body of this skinny little man turned to putty between the kicking legs of the rancorous men. This was not about teaching a man a lesson, about scaring me, about preventing access to the village; this was about vengeance – retribution for teaching villagers their legal rights, for agitating, for daring to hide.
They slowed down but never stopped. He lay there – his eye out of its socket, his tongue cut, a stream of blood dropping from his mouth, his body limp, twisted. The ligaments in his neck were broken, so his head lay sideways as if connected to the rest of his body by a rubber band.
We were probably in the car another five to eight minutes. The front windows were open and various men were reaching in to unlock my door. I held my hand tight to the lock. They punched me, twisted my wrist, tried everything possible with a quick grab to get me out. But I wouldn’t let go, and I defended myself while watching Mr Lu get beaten through the window.
Eventually, my translator got out. I followed. They opened my pen, searched my pockets, underwear and socks, asked my translator if his watch could record anything. They asked what we were doing in Taishi. They found my Chinese press pass. “You foreigners you are ruining Taishi,” they screamed. “You write write write so much about what’s happened here that all these businesses have fled the new industrial zone.”
Joffe-Walt wrote this story last night, soon after the ordeal took place. He is now not in China for safety reasons.
UPDATE: Activist found alive after beating by mob (Guardian)
UPDATE II: Some are questioning the accuracy of Joffe-Walt’s report, and others are questioning his actions (via China Herald). ESWN, as always, has more.
UPDATE III: The Case of Benjamin Joffe-Walt (ESWN)
Taishi, China: Lu Banglie lives, will his cause die? (RConversation blocked in China)