News / Asia

China's Censors Block Details on Environmental Protest

People run as riot police officers (back) try to disperse protesters against a chemical plant project in Maoming, Guangdong province, March 31, 2014.
People run as riot police officers (back) try to disperse protesters against a chemical plant project in Maoming, Guangdong province, March 31, 2014.
Five days after an environmental protest turned violent in the Southern Chinese province of Guangdong, accounts of the events remain contradictory. What witnesses saw and posted online is starkly different from what authorities say happened.

Residents in Maoming, a coastal town about 300 kilometers South of Guangzhou, took to the streets to protest a planned chemical plant they say will harm the environment and feed corruption.

While their demands seem clear, there are many unanswered questions about what really happened after the march of more than 1,000 people turned violent last Sunday (March 30).

Accounts online say police used disproportionate force and beat some protesters to death. The government says it acted to safeguard public order and prevent the situation from worsening. Authorities also denied any deaths.

Ying Jiang is a lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Adelaide where she researches Social Media in China.

She says the incident highlights how fractured media in China can be.

"There are two different Chinas, one is the China who lives on social media, the other one is central official state media," she said.

Pictures uploaded on Weibo, China's twitter-like service, showed injured people, including a man lying in the ground with blood on his face and clothes.

Other pictures showed tanks on the street, as well as special force police charging the crowds.

Jiang says not everything on Weibo is accurate, but distrust against the government and official media makes people more likely to believe the worst.

"If it is a rumor, it still has the grounds or the basis for people to believe in this rumor," she said. Because people don't trust the government and just assume that this kind of thing would happen."

Yang Zhihui, an eyewitness reached by phone by VOA, says he ran into the protests after accompanying his wife to a nearby government office, where she was due to take an exam.

While waiting for his wife he saw some protesters becoming increasingly confrontational.

"There were a few students, young people probably in their twenties," he said. "They went to buy eggs and started throwing them towards the armed police. Then they began throwing bottles of water. This went on for about 20 minutes and then the police charged on and started beating people."

Yang says he saw at least three people being beaten unconscious. "I saw it with my own eyes," he said. "In one case a man was beaten and there was a lot of blood. He had been beaten so much that his head was almost cracked. He was not moving and the police would not let us near him."

Chinese media are effectively banned on reporting independently about sensitive events such as protests.

Newspapers based in Hong Kong have reported that after the clashes, authorities sealed off Maoming, and have requested that journalists show special permits if they want to enter the city.

On Thursday, the official People's Daily published an account debunking online rumors.

The article said reports by Hong Kong media that the protest led to 15 deaths and 300 people injured were false. It also said the suggestion that the army had intervened was false.

People's Daily reported the picture of tanks that made the rounds online was in fact years old and shot during regular military drills.

Li Xigen, a professor of media and communication at City University of Hong Kong, says, "They want to portray some kind of picture that it is not a big problem, everything is under control. That is the guideline for the state media to deal with this kind of issue."

On Thursday, four days after the clashes, the government held a news conference with selected media.

The local deputy security chief admitted that because of the chaos at the scene, police had accidentally injured some protesters. He denied reports of deaths but said that 15 people had been hospitalized, four of whom are policemen.

At the news conference, the deputy mayor said that the government will listen to the people's suggestions in deciding the future of the PX plant against which people protested.

Li Xigen says that the government has realized that online voices can become louder then the voice of officials.

"They learned that from many other incidents, the hard way, so now they changed the strategy, they turn to that platform to try their own voice to be heard," he said.

Yang Zhihui, the man who witnessed the protest on Sunday, says he does not trust what local officials are saying. He says the central government should make an inquiry on what happened.

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Wangchuk from: NY
April 14, 2014 10:42 AM
Censorship and the lack of media freedom for domestic & foreign journalists is one of the biggest problems in China. It's why the average Chinese distrusts the official media and the CCP. Censorship only leads to more rumours and unrest b/c if people can't rely on news, they will come to their own conclusions or believe rumours. Censorship is not only illegal under the PRC Constitution but also hurts the govt as it contributes to the very instability the CCP fears.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid