20,000 farmers and workers riot in China

Chinese riot police
Chinese riot police

Hunan city, Yongzhou, central China; around 20,000 farmers and laid off workers have rioted and clashed with 1,000 police armed with guns and electric cattle prods.

Submitted by Red Marriott on March 12, 2007

The rioters were reported to be protesting against government corruption and rising transport costs. The unrest was eventually suppressed with scores of arrests and some injuries, none serious, on both sides.

This is the latest in a long series of what the government calls "mass incidents" in China - a term including protests, petitions and demonstrations. It was estimated that approx. 23,000 such incidents occurred last year. Figures for earlier years; 2005, 87,000 incidents, 74,000 in 2004, 58,000 in 2003. The recent decline may be due to a change in definition so as to play down the level of unrest.

The first official use of the term 'mass incident' was apparently by Minister of Public Security Zhou Youkang, published in Ta Kung Pao on June 5, 2005:

In speaking about mass incidents arising from conflict among the people, Zhou Yongkang said that mass incidents are an outstanding problem affecting social stability, with five features that require attention.

1. The number has obviously increased and the scope has expanded. From the 10,000+ mass incidents in 1994 to the 74,000+ mass incidents in 2004, the increase has been more than sixfold. The number of participants has increased from the 730,000 persons in 1994 to the 3,760,000 persons in 2004, for more than a fourfold increase;

2. The scope has expanded. Mass incidents occur in cities, rural villages, enterprises, governments, schools and various domains and sectors and they occur in all the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities;

3. The main participants in mass incidents are more diversified, and include dismissed workers, farmers, urban dwellers, enterprise owners, teachers and people from various social strata;

4. The methods are extreme, including laying siege and attacking party and government offices, blockading public roads, stopping trains and other situations;

5. The tendency is towards greater organizing. There are sometimes even spontaneously rising organizations with certain leaders.

More information
:> Update 14 March - China: One killed and 60 injured as 20,000 riot over transport price hikes - more detailed account of the riot
:> http://my.opera.com/PRC/blog/show.dml/581789 - commentary on the confusions in definition and assessment of such incidents