Crowds took to the streets in the eastern Chinese province of Henan on New Year’s Day, protesting against the long-standing embezzlement of public monies by local officials.
Although Chinese authorities denied the incident, witnesses said the crowd gathered near a local train station in the city of Anyang, sang China’s national anthem “March of the Volunteers,” and engaged in a stand-off with the police.
According to posts on Internet fora, authorities blocked off the roads while riot police shouted at the protesters, threatened to arrest them if they fail to disperse within 10 minutes. The deputy director of Public Security Bureau shouted at the protesters with a loudspeaker, “All of you have already witnessed the power of our security forces. You need to believe that the government can solve all the problems.”
In response, the thousands of people who had gathered booed loudly at the police and yelled “shoot at me.” Although exasperated, the crowd stayed on the sidewalks and remained orderly.
“Some 30,000 people blocked the roads in Anyang and confronted about 1,000 traffic and armed policemen,” a netizen calling himself Distressed Crowd posted on China’s Twitter-like service, Sina Weibo. “Leaders of some 3,000 government-endorsed corporations came to Anyang to raise funds, and more than 70 billion yuan (US$11 billion) were completely misappropriated,” the netizen wrote.
Another netizen added that the protest was organized via a group on the instant messaging service QQ, which was created last year when the fund raising took place. The netizen said 40 enterprises were associated with the case, which affected at least one fifth of families in Anyang.
“Hundreds of millions of yuan raised in Anyang was embezzled under the name of Hainan Island’s real estate investment,” said netizen Dabao Limi Amber. “People have blocked the city hall gate several times but the government just would not respond.”
Voice of America reported on Jan. 1 that though the Anyang Security Bureau denied the protest, a Mr. Li, who works at a restaurant near the Anyang train station, confirmed the incident and heavy police presence.
“Come to Anyang to check it out for yourself,” he said. “If you come tomorrow, you might still see it.”