Residents of a southern Chinese city responded with anger after officials reportedly beat a disabled fruit vendor to death. According to the China Daily, thousands of incensed locals threw stones at the police and overturned a government vehicle. Around 30 protesters and 10 police officers were injured in the chaos.
Eyewitnesses said that the 52-year-old man, Deng Qiguo, was brutally beaten by a group of chegguan, or “city management officials.” Graphic videos and photos of his dead body are reportedly circulating on the internet, although the protesters seem to have been effectively dispersed. The footage cannot yet be authenticated.
The government’s account of the events were, predictably, muted and vague. Police are reportedly questioning six chegguan members in connection with the beating. According to the Financial Times, this “quasi-police force mostly enforces laws against beggars, street vendors and other petty offenders and has a reputation for brutality and corruption.” But the authorities, who allegedly used water guns and tear gas against the protesters, are only somewhat less guilty of violence against ordinary citizens.
In the words of an witness who spoke to a Chinese news agency on condition of anonymity, “When we went there, [the vendor] was already dead, there was a group of people surrounding him, over ten thousand people. The group was definitely furious. One would normally give priority to disabled people. We first saw he was old, then saw he was disabled. As soon as people saw it they were furious.” Another witness said that more people were injured by the riot police.
Turbulence seems to be the norm in China these days; last month, another enormous riot was sparked when city managers physically assaulted a pregnant migrant worker. After the Arab Spring, China was concerned about popular uprisings similar to those in the Middle East, but the rate of these small-scale riots does not seem to be ebbing.
A solution, at least to this particular problem, seems to be to control the actions of the chegguan. It’s easy to understand why citizens would be angered by a public and brutal display of violence against an impoverished, disabled man. And if the Chinese government doesn’t want larger, more systematic demonstrations, they had better start responding to their citizens’ righteous outrage with something other than tear gas.
Photo from Rex Pe via flickr.
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