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

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline 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.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid