China media searches for reasons behind a rash of violence

Strong-arm tactics by officials seen as one reason why people are turning to violence as the first rather than the last resort

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 3:50am

A mother, pushing a shopping cart with her daughter asleep inside, unknowingly blocks a car from parking in Beijing. One of the two men inside gets out, seizes the girl, and throws her violently to the ground, killing her.

A man in Heilongjiang sets fire to the nursing home where he was a resident, suspecting someone had stolen 200 yuan (HK$250) from him. He dies, along with 10 others, in the ensuing blaze.

In Henan, a group of police officers grow angry after a private car takes too long to get out of their way, so they batter the vehicle. An official in Hubei refuses to pay a parking fee and beats up the cashier.

News reports of violent attacks, involving both ordinary people and civil servants, have appeared with unusual frequency over the past weeks. Newspapers have responded with commentaries asking why people appear to erupt with such vehemence, even over trivial matters.

The People's Daily said moods could turn easily and resorting to violence was becoming the first choice, rather than the last. The newspaper said many people claimed to have an "inferiority syndrome". "A sense of inferiority leads to poor self-respect, which makes those people easily offended," it reported.

The People's Daily also warned of a "very dangerous sentiment" that led some people to take revenge on innocent people for unfair treatment they themselves had received at the hands of someone else. They pointed to a handicapped man who set off a home-made bomb at the Beijing Capital International Airport last month, injuring only himself. He said he was left disabled after a beating by police and wanted to publicise his case. Some people, well acquainted with police excess, applauded the man. But the People's Daily warned: "By exchanging violence for violence, one will never achieve true equality and justice. And those who applaud may also become victims of violence."

The Guangzhou Daily warned that some officials' strong-arm tactics were making public hostility worse. "Officials, on behalf of the public, should set a good example and not amplify the ruthlessness and brutality now present in society," it said. "Therefore, officials who take advantage of their power to beat people should be strictly punished."

Hunan province's official news portal, rednet.cn noted that in many cases people's capacity for cruelty was reinforced because their own demands had been violently dealt with by authorities; for example, a Hunan watermelon vendor apparently beaten to death by the notorious urban management officers.

State television ran a website commentary blaming some media outlets for contributing to the negative social mood. Reporters were obsessed with justifying the aggressor's actions and emphasised any unfairness or injustice he encountered in the past. Others linked unrelated cases to argue government inaction was to blame and crimes were the result of a thirst for revenge, it said.

The Ministry of Public Security last week ordered local police to focus on the crackdown on terrorist activities as well as individual attacks.

The Hubei Daily urged that in addition to the judicial departments' efforts to punish assaulters, it was also important to work towards giving more care to the disadvantaged and ensuring smooth communication between the public and the government.

The China Youth Daily asked readers to avoid falling under the influence of others who resorted to violence and called for more self-discipline. "We always consider something as a 'social issue', but as a part of society, are we not responsible for the state of society's as it is today?" it argued. "We may not be able to change someone's brutal nature, but we can choose not to be influenced by it," it said. "We may not be able to eliminate all evil, but we do not have to help perpetuate it."