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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake 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.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid