Slaughter of villagers 'by mistake


China has finally acknowledged the slaughter of villagers protesting seizure of their land in Dongzhou village, near Hong Kong. According to the Sunday edition of the subscription—only South China Morning Post:

Three Guangdong villagers were killed by mistake and eight injured because a hard core of protesters incited a "chaotic" nighttime riot that required police to fire warning shots, the mainland's official media said last night.

In the first formal account of violent clashes between police and villagers in Dongzhou village, Shanwei city , Xinhua last night published a local government statement. Entitled "The Truth of December 6th Incident of Red Sea Bay in Shanwei", it called the confrontation "a case of serious violence against the people's police by several hundred villagers instigated by a small number of people".

"The December 6th Incident is a serious crime instigated by a small number of people," it said. "A very small number of instigators in Dongzhou ... are the main culprits. They must shoulder the legal responsibility of the serious consequence of what's happened."

Villagers last night reacted to the statement with anger and concern. Some feared further arrests and others said the death toll was higher and complained police had yet to return the bodies of their missing relatives. The situation was last night tense in the village.

The statement did not say how the villagers died or were injured, only describing the situation last Tuesday as "very chaotic".

The language employed is interesting. More than anything else, authorities fear "chaos" — the loss of control — because they know that such a condition has often led to the fall of Chinese regimes. Similarly, it cannot acknowledge widespread discontent, because that would delegitimize itself, and so must scapegoat ringleaders and adgitators as responsible.

All of this means that the leadership appears to have learned nothing. As the social disruption that rapid economic change always brings will continue, expect more such "chaos" to spring up here and there.

Expect increased emphasis on nationalism, as a means of whipping up patriotic support for the regime. Anti—Japanese and anti—American incidents can be expected to be manufactured. But of course only to a certain degree. If China actually harms relations with its two biggest markets, and the growth of the economy  is threatened, then real chaos could ensue. Loss of the new wealth would be unbearable for many, and the disruption of rural life would all be for naught. China has a tiger by the tail.

As I said on Hugh Hewitt's syndicated radio show yesterday, the regime walks a tightrope. Too much growth is destabilizing, but so is too little. China has unleashed a tiger, and all the old justifications for central power have been discarded, with nothing but the power of repression to replace them.

Word reaches me that the man on the street in the big cities is quite aware of what happened at Dongzhou. People are talking about it Thanks to text messaging cell phones and the internet, the regime cannot keep a lid on bad news, as is it ingrained habit. That is obviously why the regime has formally acknowledged the "mistake."

Stay tuned.

Hat tip: China Challenges

Thomas Lifson  12 10 05