China: Protester dances on destroyed police car during riot
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Clips showing a furious Chinese mob flipping a police car on to its hood have gone viral, in the latest remarkable example of civil disobedience to penetrate the country’s wall of digital censorship. The footage shows large crowds in Luyi County, Henan, on January 2, where it is understood frustrations against a fireworks ban boiled over, with people pushing an officer and attacking the vehicle.
Some threw fireworks, smashed the car’s windows and climbed on top of it, stamping and dancing.
Users of social media sought to link the incident with the unusually large protests which took place in China last year, which became known as the #WhitePaperRevolution or the #A4Revolution, in reference to the way in which demonstrators held up blank pieces of paper during their action.
Although there is little proof the incidents are formally linked, online commenters made such comparisons while posting videos alongside the tag the #FireworkRevolution.
Professor William Hurst, the Chong Hua Professor of Chinese Development at the University of Cambridge, said such incidents were not in themselves unusual – but acknowledged the rarity of such a lengthy clip surfacing online.
He told Sky News: “Protests of this scale and intensity do happen very often and the government doesn’t necessarily regard it as a big deal.
“There is some context in which the Chinese government does believe that any, even slight resistance or mobilisation automatically constitutes an existential threat to the regime”.
Such content was generally removed from Chineses social media very rapidly, Prof Hurst stressed, meaning its appearance on sites outside China’s control – for example Instagram and Twitter – was noteworthy.
He continued: “I think this is actually a new trend that we’re seeing over the last few months. This is something new and different.
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“Somehow it seems more and more of these videos of contentious episodes have made it onto Chinese social media platforms like Douyin (known as TikTok outside China) and have remained there long enough for someone to pull videos off of Chinese social media platforms and repost them on other social media in China as well as internationally.
“Either people who are posting the videos have become much more savvy about how to evade internet controls and censorship and other restrictions, or the state is actually loosening up a little bit in terms of what’s allowed to be posted and how long it’s allowed to stay up and what’s allowed to leak internationally. It could be both.”
Eight people are under investigation and six have been arrested after the attack on the police car, according to a statement issued by the Luyi County Public Security Bureau on Chinese social media.
Posts from those criticising the incident remain on sites, but comments praising the crowd for taking a stand have largely been removed.
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Fewer than 300 results appeared after a search for “Luyi” on Weibo on January 4.
The videos do not prove whether the police car was attacked because officers were trying to uphold the ongoing fireworks ban, in place as a result of concerns over fire hazards and air pollution.
Many wanted the ban to be lifted to to mark the end of three years of COVID-19 restrictions in the country.
China ditched its controversial zero-COVID policy at the end of last year.
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