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A Chinese City's Rage At the Rich And Powerful

A Rich Outsider

A photo from Bo Xun, a Web site created by Chinese dissidents, shows the crowd gathered outside the police station in downtown Chizhou where rioters set three police vehicles on fire. Crowds also looted a nearby supermarket.
A photo from Bo Xun, a Web site created by Chinese dissidents, shows the crowd gathered outside the police station in downtown Chizhou where rioters set three police vehicles on fire. Crowds also looted a nearby supermarket. (Bo Xun)

Wu and his companions had just finished a long, beer-soaked lunch at a sidewalk restaurant when the collision with Liu occurred, according to Cao Yefa, an official at the Chizhou Communist Party Propaganda Department.

Wu's two bodyguards were security personnel from Xie He Hospital in Anqing. As described by witnesses, both wore their hair in military-style brush-cuts and their black T-shirts exposed muscular arms decorated with tattoos.

As Liu fell to the street, the two guards continued kicking him with pointed-toe shoes, the witnesses related. Three dozen shopkeepers from the nearby vegetable market and idle motorcycle taxi drivers gathered around and shouted at the pair to stop.

Wu's Toyota, they pointed out later, carried license plates identifying it as registered in neighboring Jiangsu province. Wu, it seemed, was one of the rich outsiders Chizhou's investment-hungry leaders were eager to seduce. Moreover, when policemen from the nearby substation showed up to investigate, officials and witnesses reported, Wu and his bodyguards refused to cooperate -- the first signs of an arrogance that participants said helped spark the violence.

Wu, still in his vehicle, waved off questions impatiently, witnesses recalled, saying: "Don't touch me. Get away from my car."

The policemen, two duty officers and an auxiliary, put the badly beaten Liu into a taxi and dispatched him to Chizhou People's Hospital, where doctors later said he had a broken jaw, a broken nose and multiple contusions. According to witnesses and official accounts, the policemen ordered Wu and his three companions to follow them to their substation: about 330 yards down Cuibai Street, a right turn at the Donghuadong Supermarket and 54 yards down Quipu Street.

Agitated by Wu's attitude and the sight of Liu's bloody injuries, the motorcycle drivers and vegetable merchants followed on foot, joined by a growing number of bystanders. Members of the crowd pulled out their cell phones to call friends and relatives, swelling their numbers further. By 3:30, witnesses recalled, several thousand people were gathered around the station.

One of those who showed up was Liu's father, who, witnesses said, began arguing with Wu and the bodyguards. Enraged, he grabbed a motorcycle lock and, swinging it over and over, shattered Wu's windshield, the witnesses reported. Police officers, who numbered only three, did not react.

The hostile mood swiftly escalated, those present said. The anger was nurtured by rumors, passed along in person or in cell phone conversations that, in the absence of official declarations, were the only source of information.

Many were told that Liu was a 16-year-old student on his way home from final exams, and that he had died of his wounds before reaching the hospital. Others were told the two bodyguards had stabbed a motorcycle driver who was trying to protect the injured youth. And most were told that Wu was heard telling police there was nothing to worry about because, by handing $35,000 to Liu's father, he could make the problem go away.

The actions of Wu and his companions further enraged the crowd, witnesses said. Cao, the party propaganda official, said the four men openly defied the three policemen and, within earshot of the crowd, cursed them in accents that identified them as outsiders.

"Maybe it's because they are rich people, rich but without education," Cao said in a telephone interview. "They don't know how to behave, and they look down on others."


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