October 10, 2005

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Taishi: a case study of repression (Updated)

The wash-up from Taishi*, a village where a genuine attempt at grass roots democracy was unceremoniously suppressed. ESWN reports that a Guardian journalist investigating the village was reportedly bashed at Taishi by Government heavies. Also, yesterday, Radio France's Abel Segrein and South China Morning Post's Liu Xiaoyin were assaulted by more than twenty people. A colleague of Abel Segrein, Pierre Haski, has a blog in French with more details on Abel Segrein's visit to Taishi (a reasonable Google translation in English is here).

ESWN has an updated chronology of all the events at Taishi.

What happened in Taishi was incredibly significant but it has not been widely reported in the Western media. Why? Because the Western media are effectively barred from reporting it, through violence and threats. Welcome to media management, CCP style.

Update (10/10)

Today's SCMP has Leu Siew Ying's first hand report of her visit and beating last Friday at Taishi and another report on a similar incident on Saturday: the detention of legislator Lu Banglie, a deputy to the Zhijiang People's Congress in Hubei province, on a visit to Taishi with Guardian newspaper reporter Benjamin Joffe-Walt. I had spoken to Mr. Joffe-Walt on Saturday afternoon, before the incident had occurred. He was seeking to do an article on the real story behind Taishi.

When government thugs start detaining legislators and beating Western journalists, the alarms should be ringing at maximum volume. Kudos to Abel Segretin from RFI, Mr Joffe-Walt and Leu Siew Ying for persuing the story. As the saying goes, when there's beatings, there's a story.

* Link is to a newly established category containing all my Taishi related posts

"They were working themselves into a frenzy"

Radio France Internationale reporter Abel Segretin and I went to Taishi last Friday to find out why residents suddenly abandoned a bid to recall their village chief. During previous visits I had been detained twice - the windscreens and windows of my taxi were smashed by paid thugs. A lecturer and two lawyers had the same harrowing experience three weeks later, so I knew I had to be careful. Segretin and I agreed that we would not resist if caught, but we did not get any further than a roadblock set up by the local authorities. A few men with red armbands marked "security" forced us off our motorbikes. Straight away, another 20 people closed in on us - some wearing army camouflage - and asked for our identity papers. We asked them who they were and a well-dressed man said "villagers".

I told him I was not obliged to identify myself to anyone but the police. He said if we did not show him our identity papers he would leave and would not be able to control the others. He also revealed that he knew we had got out of a taxi in Shiqi to continue our journey by motorcycle.

The man then called police while Segretin asked why we could not enter the village. People started shouting, saying we had caused trouble for them and cost them their livelihoods. One tried to force us to sit down, while two others grabbed Segretin's forearms. When he pulled himself free, I could see red marks they had left. One man punched him in the waist and another whacked me across the head with a blow that sent me tumbling forward. Fortunately, I was wearing a broad-brimmed peasant's straw hat that cushioned the blow, so I was more shocked than hurt.

I was trembling and kept telling my colleague we had to leave. We tried to, but the men stopped us. I told him not to talk to them because the mood had turned very ugly and I could see that they were working themselves into a frenzy. I felt they were waiting for us to provoke them, and I was terrified that my companion would get badly beaten - and that I would be next.

I have reported on China for seven years and this was the first time I have been beaten, although I have been detained numerous times.

Legislator missing after being beaten near Taishi

A mainland legislator has disappeared after being dragged from his car and beaten on Saturday while travelling to Guangdong's strife-torn Taishi village with a journalist working for a British newspaper. The fate of Lu Banglie , deputy to the Zhijiang People's Congress in Hubei province , was last night unknown. Mr Lu had been advising Taishi residents on ways to oust unpopular village chief Chen Jinsheng , who has been accused of corruption, through electoral procedures.

Mr Lu had been travelling to Taishi with journalist Benjamin Joffe-Walt, who writes for The Guardian newspaper, and Joffe-Walt's mainland assistant when they were stopped at a roadblock. According to Jonathan Watts, Beijing correspondent for The Guardian, Joffe-Walt saw about five men in police uniforms and another five in army uniforms at the roadblock. However, the uniformed men soon left the area, leaving 20 to 30 men in civilian dress.

Watts said the men dragged Mr Lu from the car and started beating and kicking him, leaving the journalist and his assistant in the car. The 34-year-old activist was beaten unconscious, but the assault continued for another 10 minutes. "He was extremely badly beaten and we don't know if he is alive or dead. When Benjamin last saw him, he was lying unconscious by the side of the road," Watts said.

He believed the "thugs" were aware of Mr Lu's identity.

Joffe-Walt received "a few slaps" after he was removed from the car and had his mobile phone smashed. He was taken to a government office in Yuwoutou township and later released, Watts said. One internet report said Mr Lu was taken to Datong Hospital in Yuwoutou at about 11pm on Saturday, four hours after the beating. However, the hospital denied Mr Lu had been admitted. His mobile phone had been turned off.

Guo Yan - a lawyer representing activist Yang Maodong , who was detained for helping Taishi villagers in their struggle to remove Mr Chen - said: "Nobody has any news about [Mr Lu]."

Another lawyer representing Mr Yang, Gao Zhisheng , said he believed local authorities were collaborating with gangsters, and the violence was backed by city and even provincial authorities.

A journalist from the South China Morning Post and a French reporter were pushed around when they attempted to enter the village on Friday.

There have been several previous incidents in which reporters' cars were attacked and activists and lawyers detained and harassed when they tried to enter Taishi - making the village almost inaccessible to outsiders. Mr Lu is divorced and living with his 83-year-old mother. He was elected as chief of Baoyuesi village in Hubei after he ousted his predecessor in 2003.

posted by Simon on 10.10.05 at 09:25 AM in the Taishi category.


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guardian's report: (via anti)


posted by: sunbin on 10.10.05 at 11:54 AM [permalink]


the Chinese media (ming pao) also reported this. It was said that Mr. Lu himself was elected in an event similar to Taishi, after a corrupted village mayor was ousted by a vote.

posted by: sun bin on 10.10.05 at 03:55 PM [permalink]

BBC have picked up on the story...

posted by: Richard on 10.10.05 at 04:04 PM [permalink]

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