Following up on our previous post entitled “Attack on an American volunteer by anti-Carrefour mob in Zhuzhou, Hunan,” we were contacted today by James Galvin, the unnamed American volunteer mentioned in the story which has now gone on to receive coverage by the Associated Press. In his email, Galvin provided his first-hand account of the alleged incident outside a Carrefour Sunday night in Hunan Province. He feels the story has gotten blown out of proportion. He called the initial email summary of the incident submitted to Shanghaiist by one of his fellow volunteers “sensationalist,” adding the colleague “had only seen me for thirty seconds. That should have been enough to see I was not ‘cut up.'” Shanghaiist ran the initial post on the incident on April 22 after receiving a copy of an official email from the volunteer organization’s China field director — which spoke of a “mob mentality” and “punches” being thrown — that appeared to corroborate the initial version of events we were given. We had also seen an email from a U.S. Vice-Consul in Beijing saying she had spoken with the field director and that the Embassy was “highly concerned about what happened.” We felt it was newsworthy and posted the story as a word of caution to our readers in various parts of China. We updated the story after the initial tipster contacted us again saying he was worried his account was “factually inaccurate in many ways.”
Galvin’s version of events is less extreme than the version we were originally provided, but it is clear he believes he was in an uncomfortable position that required police intervention. According to Galvin, although he found himself among a crowd of protesters, he was not attacked by a mob, instead he was attacked “very slightly and unsuccessfully by one youth.” He said the majority of the crowd was “non-violent.”
Here is Galvin’s account in its entirety:
I am the volunteer in China who has been cited in a number of internet blogs and sources of the press as having been attacked by a mob in Hunan, China Sunday night. I was not in fact attacked by a mob at all but very slightly and unsuccessfully by one youth. The student was part of a demonstration and had confronted me upon my trying to leave the store. Evading that angry student i burst through a protest crowd. He shouted an inflammatory chant and the crowd–seeing what they thought was a French person walking through their protest of a French store–responded. Several students trying to maintain the non-violent nature of the protest walked me away from 2 violent students. The crowd however was already following and chanting, but not attacking me in spite of ample opportunities to do so thoroughly. I eventually got into a taxi and the crowd surrounded it, content to have a foreign audience for their message. (The Western born population of this town is almost unnoticeable.) Still chanting but never breaking through the windows or hurting me, the crowd continued to taunt and protest. In spite of plentiful false reports in the Western media, i was not harmed during the course of this protest–giving tenure to the demonstration as a non-violent event with one angry youth and one white guy where he didn’t belong.
In a separate email, Galvin wrote that “one police drove the cab away.” The Associated Press story says, “Galvin was quickly whisked away by police and was not hurt in the Sunday incident,” citing the executive director of Galvin’s volunteer teaching program.
Names of all people and organizations were removed from the initial Shanghaiist post on this topic minutes after it appeared on the site. Galvin allowed us to use his name in this post. We regret any unwanted attention Galvin and his organization may have received regarding this incident. But we stand by the newsworthiness of the story, given the information we had at the time, even though the severity of the incident appears to have been exaggerated by our initial sources of information.
We still believe it is wise for foreigners in China at the moment to consider their movements carefully and to avoid large gatherings, especially those related to recent controversy surrounding the Olympics, Tibet and alleged Western media bias.