Troubling news has emerged over the last day regarding the tragic killing of a man in Tianmen, Hubei province.
Clashes started last Monday over a failed promise by the city government to move a garbage dump away further away from a residential area. About fifty or so chengguan (城管) or ‘city managers’ were called in to control the crowd.
Wei Wenhua, a manager at a local government-owned construction company with no apparent connection to the protest, was driving through the area when he stopped to get a better look. At this point he took out his camera phone and began recording the incident. Once the chengguan noticed his presence, he was yanked out of his vehicle and then brutally beaten unconscious over a period of ten minutes. He was carted off, along with other injured protesters, and died en route to the hospital.
Xinhua is reporting that over a hundred people being investigated in the incident and 4 have been detained, some of whom are high-ranking city officials. Expect someone to take the fall for this one as this is a story that has sparked outrage throughout the Chinese blogosphere and revived talk of disbanding the chengguan. You might know the chengguan as the urban pseudo-police force used to scare away migrant workers and DVD salesmen. Apparently, this isn’t the first time that they’ve been cited for abusing their authority.
This reminds us of a time not too long ago when we saw a group of factory workers protesting in front of the Municipal Headquarters in People’s Square. From their account, their manager had been beaten by someone with government ties (it wasn’t clear in our broken Chinese and their thick accents) and they were there to complain. We watched for a while as the police tried to push and drag them onto buses (to god knows where) and otherwise get this scene out of public attention. We split when we noticed a couple of the officers start pointing at us and then start walking in our general direction.
Though we wouldn’t expect to hear about it if something did happen, we assume that this incident had a more peaceful resolution, possibly because the police and not the chengguan were involved.
Tragic though the incident at Tianmen (we recognize the name bears a creepy resemblance to another well-publicized location) was, with luck the negative public backlash will result in a more responsible exercise of power in the future.
Photo from Hemengyang7263