WASHINGTON—Two senior U.S. legislators have written to the Chinese Embassy here expressing “deep concern” over a deadly crackdown on protesters in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.
In a letter dated Dec. 15 and addressed to Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde wrote, “It appears in today’s China, all political power continues to come from the barrel of a gun rather than through the rule of law.”
“We are writing to you to express our deep concern over news reports regarding the Dec. 6 incident; that is, the lethal assault last week on peaceful protestors by Chinese paramilitary forces in the village of Dongzhou in Guangdong Province,” they wrote in a letter released to Radio Free Asia.
The two legislators called the incident “the deadliest use of force by Chinese authorities against ordinary citizens since the Tiananmen massacre in 1989.”
“Mr. Ambassador, as you are aware, there is an ongoing debate both inside the U.S. Congress and throughout the United States over how to address the issue of a rising China and over whether or not the People’s Republic of China is ready to become a responsible stakeholder in the international community of nations,” the letter said.
“The tragic killings of innocent protestors at Dongzhou, reminiscent to Americans of the Boston Massacre of 1770, have been followed, according to news reports, by an official campaign to cover up the events… While the commanding officer on the scene of the Dec. 6 incident has reportedly been placed in detention, local authorities are carrying out extensive surveillance of victims’ families, bodies of victims have reportedly been thrown into the sea, and there is an ongoing round-up of villagers labeled as ‘instigators,’” it said.
“This is a classic ‘blame the victim’ approach to what is, in reality, a national tragedy for China and its people. It also indicates that the bloody legacy of the Tiananmen Massacre has yet to be fully comprehended. It appears in today’s China, all political power continues to come from the barrel of a gun rather than through the rule of law.”
The letter urged the ambassador to “advise your government…that such incidents as those which took place in Dongzhou adversely affect China’s image in the world and have a serious negative impact on Congressional views regarding engagement with China.”
A U.S. State Department official who asked not to be named also voiced concern at reports of the incident and said the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, was trying to get more information about how the shootings occurred. "We certainly encourage transparency as they investigate this incident, and we urge the Chinese government to handle this matter in accordance with the rule of law," the official said.
China’s official Xinhua news agency acknowledged that three people had died in the clash, shot by police “in alarm.” It said villagers had attacked first with knives and home-made explosives, blaming the clashes on “over 170 armed villagers led by instigators Huang Xijun, Lin Hanru, and Huang Xirang.”
“It became dark when the chaotic mob began to throw explosives at the police. Police were forced to open fire in alarm,” Xinhua said, quoting the Guangdong provincial information office. “In the chaos, three villagers died, eight were injured with three of them fatally injured.”
Calling the clashes “a serious law-breaking incident,” the official Guangzhou Daily newspaper said that the police officer in charge at the time of the shootings had been arrested.
“Under exceptionally urgent circumstances, the chief commanding officer at the scene mishandled the situation, causing accidental deaths and injuries,” the paper said. “The procuratorial organ of Shanwei City has brought this person under criminal detention according to law.”
Residents in the southern Chinese port city of Shanwei say officials have launched a major information offensive following violent clashes between police and villagers in which at least three people are known to have been shot dead.
Around a dozen families of those who died or who are still missing from the violence of Dec. 6 in Dongzhou Township are being closely monitored by local officials, residents said.
“There are village officials sitting watching the homes of those who lost relatives, keeping an eye on their comings and goings,” one Dongzhou resident told RFA’s Mandarin service.
Two villagers said their phones were being tapped by police, who had begun a wave of arrests of those they saw as key instigators of the protest. “I can’t talk on the phone—it’s being monitored,” one woman told Mandarin service reporter Ding Xiao.