A traffic police motorbike set on fire.
Massive crowds gathered in Jiuting, Songjiang District, southwest of Xujiahui, yesterday after a number of chengguans, or urban administrative officers, allegedly roughed up two motorists.
Details are scarce, but here’s the (unconfirmed) story we managed to piece together from bits and pieces floating on the interwebs: Around 3.30pm in the afternoon, a chengguan vehicle arrived at the road junction behind an electric bike carrying a young couple. The chengguans wanted to beat the red lights, but the young couple would not let them pass through. A verbal argument ensued, and things rapidly went downhill from there: Eight chengguans descended from their vehicle and proceeded to beat the living daylights out of the couple.
By the time the police got on site, the chengguans were, unsurprisingly, nowhere to be found. Here’s the scene shortly after the area was cordoned off by police. In the video after the jump, one person (or was it two?) is seen on the ground attended to by passers-by, while a crowd begins to gather.
The demands by the growing crowd to the police to hand over the chengguans were not met, and this only served to enrage the crowds. In the meanwhile, it was not until four hours later that the injured couple were taken away by an ambulance to the hospital for treatment.
Despite the best efforts by police to disperse the crowd, the people would not leave and more kept joining in. At one point, the crowd was said to have numbered at least 2,000, according to the estimate of an eye-witness.
As more and more police were activated and arrived on location, the impasse extended into the late evening. Around 10.30pm, someone set off a traffic police motorbike on fire. This may have had to do with rumours circulating among the crowd that one of the injured victims had passed away in hospital.
By this time, some began to hold placards protesting the violence of the chengguans as others attempted to overturn police cars. Soon after, the police began arresting people, as riot police arrived on site. By 11.30pm, a massive convoy of police trucks could be seen lined up on the road, ready to take away troublemakers.
Before midnight, the police regained control of the situation and a standoff ensued. It is unclear how long it took for the crowd to disperse.
Ever wary of mass incidents like this one, the Shanghai propaganda office appears to have already kicked into action. Posts related to the incident on forums like Tianya and KDS have already been deleted, while tweets on Sina Weibo were filtered (though not anymore).
A news embargo on the incident also seems to be firmly in place as none of the mainstream media has reported on the story. (Update: Shanghai Daily has a report here)
While chengguans are generally despised across China for their brutality, the Jiuting chengguans have a reputation for being among the most physically aggressive here in Shanghai. In December 2009, they made the headlines for injuring several store owners in the township.
We’ll be bringing you more details as they emerge.
Pictures taken by an eye-witness: