A Brief History
On June 19, 2009, during the Shishou Riot, Chinese authorities reminded their people that China is not a democracy. When the body of Tu Yuangao was found outside of the Yonglong Hotel where he worked as a chef, the authorities immediately pronounced the death a suicide and sent for an ambulance to take the body away.
(Note: Our website features numerous articles about riots, including “Sports Riots Go Back Farther than You Think!,” “10 Goofy Named Riots,” “Brown Dog Riots rock London!,” “Good Grief! Another Idiotic Riot! (The Astor Place Riot),” “Peekskill Riots Follow Concert by Remarkable Paul Robeson,” “Peace Day Riots: British Veterans Burn Down The Town Hall,” and “New York City Draft Riots (Worst Riot in US History)” among even more other articles!)
Not surprisingly, the family of the 24 year old chef was taken aback by the quick pronouncement of suicide and wanted to check into the death with a bit more attention to detail. Police tried to keep family members away from the body and the situation became tense. The fact that the hotel was owned by a close friend of the mayor made it clear who’s side the police were on.
When the police tried to take the body, the large family gathering reinforced by crowds of irate citizens (knowing a cover up when they saw one) attempted to prevent the removal of Tu. The fight was on, with about 10,000 citizens eventually fighting with 10,000 police! As the riot stretched into the next day, the Chinese government did the expected, and typical of a totalitarian government afraid of its own people and outside opinion shut down internet access to the Shishou area. (Note: Shishou has a population of over 600,000.)
By June 21, the police finally got control of the body of Tu and took it away directly to a crematorium where it was promptly cremated without an autopsy and without an investigation.
Just in case you thought China was reformed and somehow joining the civilized world, do not be hasty in your judgment! Incidents like this cover-up, remind us that China is still a corrupt place with a government by and for the favored, not the masses.
Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think? Is this incident typical or an aberration? Please let us know in the comments sections below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Lei, Shaohua and Yanqi Tong. Social Protest in Contemporary China, 2003-2010: Transitional Pains and Regime Legitimacy (China Policy Series). Routledge, 2013.
You can also watch a video version of this article on YouTube: