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Daily Weibo Violence: Another Fight Between Local Officers and Street Vendors

A short video showing explicit violence from local law enforcement to street vendors has got Weibo talking. Fights between street vendors and city management staff have become a recurring topic on Chinese social media for the past few years.

Manya Koetse

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A short video showing explicit violence between local law enforcement and street vendors has got Weibo talking. Fights between street vendors and city management staff have become a recurring topic on Chinese social media for the past few years. [Warning: videos contain violence, viewer discretion is adviced.]

It has almost become a daily Weibo ingredient: local officers trying to get rid of illegal street vendors by using violence. It also happens that the tables are turned; roles get reversed and it is the street vendors beating on local law enforcement, as seen in the video below. There have been cases where altercations like this have deadly consequences.

Group Fight Video

The group fight video that is now making its rounds on China’s social media has got netizens talking about the phenomenon of street seller vs city management violence (城管暴力执法).

The video seems to show what is a large group of local law enforcement staff cracking down on street sellers using extreme violence, attacking one person with multiple staff by hitting and kicking them.

The original poster of the video, who simply calls himself ‘Shitizen who Doesn’t Dare to Talk”, allegedly coming from Jiangsu, did not provide any context to this video. Another netizen writes: “It looks like these were some Uyghur folks selling pirated copies of books in the streets, and were then beaten up by local officers.”

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“Every day it is the same thing..” one Weibo netizen says.

Yibin Stick Incident

On June 2nd, the same day that the group fight video was shared on social media, Chinese media outlet The Paper reported that in Yibin, Sichuan, another violent episode took place when several city management staff approached one street seller with sticks and hit him in the face and abdomen. Caijing news writes that the seller had a knife in his hand during the violent confrontation. When he no longer had the knife, city management staff proceeded to hit and step on him.

The video of this incident also created controversy on Weibo, where it was shared over 4000 times within a day. It became trending under the hashtag “Yibin Local Law Enforcement Beats Street Peddler with Sticks” (#宜宾城管棍打小商贩#).

Although there are netizens who indicate that it is not right for local governments to enforce the law by violence, there are also many who seem to understand it. About the Yibin video, some say that if the vendor had a knife, they can understand that city staff felt threatened and would do things they otherwise would not have done: “When confronted with a knife, the local officers have to defend themselves.”

Other netizens later shared a video that was taken the moment before the street vendor was attacked by local law enforcement, which clearly shows him taking out his knife.

“If this would happen in the United States,” one commenter writes: “The guy would have been shot immediately. China’s local officers are quite lenient.”

The Root of the Problem

Law enforcement violence by China’s so-called ‘city management staff’ (城管) has been a recurrent problem for years. In 2013, People’s Daily dedicated an article to this issue, explaining that one reason why city management often uses violence to enforce the law is that their responsibilities and authority do not match up: they have to enforce the law, but their rights to stop people from violating it are very limited.

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What adds to the problem, is that these local enforcement officers often have a lot of work on their plate. They are the ones overseeing the streets and have to deal with local problems and illegal street vendors. As they do not have the legal right to carry weapons or to take people into custody, their responsibilities are just too big for the authority they have. This easily triggers violent situations – and when they get out of hand, they soon end up on social media.

The article says that according to many people, one solution to the problem would be to set up legal markets where street sellers can apply for a booth. But most street sellers have turned to the streets because they want to keep their costs as low as possible – even with legal street selling locations, there will still be illegal street sellers popping up elsewhere.

In the end, the final solution for this problem relies on the law in two ways; in deciding to what extent local officers have the authority and tools to enforce the law, and in deciding to what extent they are punished when resorting to violence. In the end, both street vendors and local officers will have to abide by the law to make this problem go away, the article suggests.

The issue is very alive on Sina Weibo, where there is even a hashtag for those who have been beaten by local officers (‘Beaten by city management’, #城管被打#). Netizens talk about the different sides to this problem, with some wondering what the actual problem is with street sellers: “They don’t steal, they don’t fight, why aren’t they just allowed to sell their stuff?”

About the group fight video, many netizens side with the local officers, saying: “If they are blocking the way with their business, it’s indeed not right.” Another person says: “What if you worked for city management [城管] and did your best to maintain order, but nobody would listen to you – and at the same time citizens are complaining, and the road is blocked, what would you do?”

“Both the city management and the street sellers are at fault,” one netizen comments.

“No matter what happened, hitting people is just not right,” another Weibo netizen says.

There are also those who see a new future for China’s local city officers: “These people should go and join China’s UN peacekeeping missions.” Another netizen supports this view, saying: “Africa’s peacekeeping troops need you there instead of here!”

– By Manya Koetse

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

The ‘Blank White Paper Protest’ in Beijing and Online Discussions on “Outside Forces”

As people in Beijing, Shanghai, and other places take to the streets holding up white papers, some have dubbed this the “A4 Revolution.”

Manya Koetse

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A majority of social media commenters support those who have recently taken to the streets, using blank sheets as a sign of protest against censorship and stringent Covid measures. But there are also online voices warning Chinese young people not to be influenced by ‘external forces.’

Over the past few days, there have been scenes of unrest and protest movements in various places across China.

While there were protests in Shanghai for the second night in a row, Beijing also saw crowds gathering around the Liangmahe area in the city’s Chaoyang District on Sunday night.

Some videos showed crowds softly singing the song “Farewell” (送别) in commemoration of those who lost their lives during the deadly inferno in Urumqi.

Later, people protested against stringent Covid measures.

“The crowds at Liangmahe are amazing,” some people on Weibo commented.

Photos and videos coming from the area showed how people were holding up blank sheets of white paper.

Earlier this weekend, students in Nanjing and Xi’an also held up blank paper sheets in protest of censorship and as the only ‘safe’ way to say what could otherwise not be said. This form of protest also popped up during the Hong Kong protests, as also described in the recent book by Louisa Lim (Indelible City: Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong).

The recurring use of blank paper sheets led to some dubbing the protests an “A4 Revolution.”

“When can we have freedom of speech? Maybe it can start at Beijng’s Liangmahe,” one person on Weibo wrote on Sunday night.

Another Beijing-based netizen wrote: “Before going to sleep I saw what was happening in Liangmahe on my WeChat Moments and then I looked at Weibo and saw that the Xicheng area had added 279 new Covid cases. I started thinking about my own everyday life and the things I am doing. I can’t help but feel a sense of isolation, because I can’t fight and do not dare to raise my voice.”

“I didn’t dare to believe this is happening in 2022. I didn’t dare to believe this is happening in Beijing. I do not dare to believe that again it will all have been useless tomorrow morning,” one Weibo user commented.

During the night, various people at the scene shouted out things such as “we want to go out and work,” and other hopes they have. One person yelled: “I want to go out and see a movie!”

“I want to go and see a movie.”

The phrase “I wanna go watch a movie” (“我要看电影”) was also picked up on social media, with some people commenting : “I am not interested in political regimes, I just want to be able to freely see a movie.” “I want to see a movie! I want to sit in a cinema and watch a movie! I want to watch a movie that is uncensored!”

Despite social media users showing a lot of support for students and locals standing up and making their voices heard, not everyone was supportive of this gathering in Beijing. Some suggested that since Liangmahe is near Beijing’s foreign embassy district, there must be some evil “foreign forces” meddling and creating unrest.

Others expressed that people were starting to demand too many different things instead of solely focusing on China’s zero Covid policies, losing the momentum of the original intention of the protest.

Political commentator Hu Xijin (胡锡进) also posted about the recent unrest on his Weibo account on Sunday night:

The people have the right to express their opinions, and you may have good and honest aspirations and have the intention to express legitimate demands. But I want to remind you that many things have their own rules, and when everyone participates in the movement, its direction might become very difficult for ordinary participants to continue to control, and it can easily to be used or even hijacked by separate forces, which may eventually turn into a flood that destroys all of our lives.”

Hu also called on people to keep striving to solve existing problems, but to stay clear-headed, suggesting that it is important for the people and the government to maintain unity in this challenging time.

The term “outside forces” or “external forces” (外部势力) increasingly popped up in social media discussions on late Sunday night.

“I worry a lot of meddling by external forces. Let’s be vigilant of a color revolution. I just hope things will get better,” one netizen from Hubei wrote.

“Young people should not be incited by a few phrases and blindly follow. Everyone will approve of people rationally defending their rights, but stay far away from color revolutions.”

The idea that foreign forces meddle in Chinese affairs for their own agenda has come up various times over the past years, during the Hong Kong protests but also during small-scale protests, such as a local student protest in Chengdu in 2021.

The term “color revolution” is recurring in these kind of discussions, with some netizens suggesting that foreign forces, such as the CIA, are trying to get local people to cause unrest through riots or demonstrations to undermine the stability of the government.

“It’s not always external forces, it can also just be opposition,” one person on Weibo replied: “In every country you’ll have different opinions.”

“What outside forces?” another commenter said: “I’m not an external force! I am just completely fed up with the Covid measures!”

Read more about the “11.24” unrest in China here.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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China and Covid19

Tribute to Urumqi at Shanghai’s Wulumqi Road

In Shanghai, people paid tribute to the victims of the Ulumqi fire by lighting candles, and also found other ways to vent their frustrations.

Manya Koetse

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Image by @导筒directube

It has been a restless Saturday night in several places across China. Following the unrest in Urumqi after a devastating fire, various places across the country have seen people gathering, chanting together, and taking their anger to the streets.

There is anger about excessive Covid measures, long lockdowns, and how it has all brought suffering to many people.

One place where people gathered is Shanghai’s Wulumuqi Road, a street named after Urumqi (it is actually ‘Urumqi Road’ but the English name is commonly spelled as Wulumuqi).

In Shanghai, people paid tribute to the victims of the Urumqi fire by lighting candles, but also found other ways to vent frustrations related to the current Covid measures.

Some at the scene, for example, wore face masks with ‘404’ written on them – referring to the recurring online censorship in light of various epidemic-related incidents (404 is the common error code given when a page or file can no longer be found).

They also chanted for “freedom,” told the Covid QR ‘venue codes’ to go f*ck themselves, sang the The Internationale in Chinese, and held up white papers in protest (this has been a recurring sign of protest).

On Weibo, there was a flood of comments related to the Shanghai gathering.

“Don’t let history repeat itself. Please, everybody, protect yourself, go home and rest in time, remember this passion of yours and change your surrounding by following your own goals.”

Although social media users showed support for the protest in Shanghai, a majority of commenters also were worried about people placing themselves in harm’s way, reminding those on the streets to “protect themselves” no matter what.

After 3:00 AM, local time, Weibo shut down live commenting on the Shanghai topic.

On Twitter, Shanghai-based journalist Eva Rammeloo (@eefjerammeloo) reported that around 4:00 am local time, police reinforcement arrived at the scene to disperse the crowds, with some people allegedly being arrested.

“We’re all mourning Urumqi in our own ways,” one person on Weibo commented: “I think you’re really brave.”

Read more about the “11.24” unrest in China here.

By Manya Koetse 

If you appreciate what we do, please subscribe here or support us by donating.

Featured image by @导筒directube

 

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