A large-scale group protest occurred in Zhili Township, Huzhou City, Zhejiang Province on October 29, 2006. More than 5,000 local residents rallied at the Township Government Office in reaction to the government's mishandling of two recent fires. The protest turned violent—windows were shattered, desks were overturned, and the head of the Public Security Bureau was hit by an ashtray. The violent protest lasted through the night until 4 am.
On the day of the protest, the Zhejiang provincial governor happened to be visiting Zhili Township. At the end of the visit when he was about to depart, protestors stopped his vehicle. A man stepped out of the car and fiercely pushed away the protestors. Subsequently, the enraged crowd smashed the governor's car.
Fan Ziliang, an advocate for democracy in Zhejiang Province, confirmed the news. Fan said, “More than 100,000 people attended the protest. The huge number of protestors and the shortage of police kept the Public Security Bureau from taking suppressive actions. The incident erupted suddenly, and there was no time for the authorities to assemble additional police forces.”
A reporter of The Epoch Times called the local police station. The policeman who answered the phone admitted the occurrence of the incident but could not provide any details because he didn't have a chance to go to the scene yet. “A lot of armed policemen have been deployed to the township government,” he said.
According to information provided by insiders, the protest arose from two catastrophic fires that occurred in Zhili Township recently. Several dozen people died in the fires. The local authorities blocked the news and altered the death toll. A series of compulsory measures were taken—all of the companies and manufacturing plants in Zhili Township were forced to close for rectification; shatter-proof windows were torn down, laborers in dormitories had to move out of the plants, and some factories received orders for permanent closure.
On Oct. 29, the local authorities found out the eight-year-old son of a local business owner slept in the factory. The owner was fined 70,000 RMB (US$8,800), and his son was kept in custody.
These compulsory measures have aroused widespread cries of discontent among local business owners. They suffered tremendous financial loss due to the factory closings, endured the extra expenditure of housing the workers outside the factories, and bore the loss to thefts since the shatter-proof windows were removed. When the public found out about the detention of the eight-year-old boy, five thousand angry civilians rushed to the Township Government, demanding justice. After mediation that yielded no consent, the crowd resorted to violence. They did not leave until 4 o'clock in the morning after the boy was released.
Two Consecutive Fires
Two major fires occurred in Zhili Township during recent months. In the early morning of September 14, a fire broke out from the Fuyin Building, which housed clothing-production facilities. Another fire occurred in the early morning of October 21 in a sports-clothing factory located in Qinjiagang Village of the Township.
A local resident told the reporter that the authorities sealed off the scenes and prohibited media from providing news coverage. Later when the facts could no longer be covered up, a short news announcement was made with a falsified figure of casualties. In one of the fires, only two persons from a family with more than 40 members had escaped the accident. But in the official report, authorities reveal, “two persons were rescued.”
Cause of Fires
The information source also blamed the government officials for taking bribes from business owners. As a result, the local authorities have remained blind to the faults in building layout and other corresponding safety measures. The best testimony is the dry water hydrant—no water was available to extinguish the fire. “During the construction of the factory buildings, fire alarms, fire control passages and facilities were not considered. The electrical cables used in the buildings also have problems in quality, rapid aging and prolonged operation under strenuous conditions,” the local resident said.
Zhili Township has been famous for the manufacturing and sales of children's clothing. Approximately 6,000 clothing enterprises are currently operating in this Township.