Holy crap! According to TechCrunch:
A Chinese blogger has been beaten to death by Government authorities for the crime of attempting to record a protest on his mobile phone.
Here’s how it went down. Just this past Monday, Wei Wenhua, the 41-year-old general manager of Shuli Architectural Engineering, and Wang Shutang, the head of the company’s party branch, were driving in Tianmen (in the province of Hubei), when some commotion caught their attention.
“Wei saw the violent enforcement activities of the city inspectors at the Wanba garbage collection site and stopped the car,” Wang told the local media. “He said, ‘There they go beating up people again’, and got out of the car, pulling out his mobile phone to take photos.”
That seems harmless enough, right? I was watching an old episode of Law & Order where two police officers were arresting a teen in a black neighborhood. His momma ran out of the house with a video camera, shouting, “I gots you on camera! I gots you on camera! Police brutality! You ain’t gettin’ away with this!” A bunch of other neighborhood teens whipped out their mobile phones too. But I digress.
The commotion was between local villagers and city officials over the dumping of waste in their village. Despite the expiration a previous garbage dumping agreement, deputized urban management officers continued dumping garbage in their village. So the villages blocked the main road to the garbage dump. A scuffle broke out between the villagers and officials, where several villagers were badly beaten. This is what Wei was catching on camera.
When they noticed him, about 20 or 30 rushed over and started beating him, according to Wang. Wei even shouted that he’d hand over his phone and delete the pictures. The officials didn’t listen though, and continued the beating. One eyewitness even heard him shout, “I surrender!”
After the beating and just as the officials started to leave, Wang urged one group of them to take Wei to the hospital. Once there, Wei was pronounced dead.
According to CNN, the authorities have fired one official, detained 24 municipal inspectors, and are investigating more than 100 others in this case. Reporters Without Borders condemned the actions of these officials, saying:
Wei is the first ‘citizen journalist’ to die in China because of what he was trying to film. He was beaten to death for doing something which is becoming more and more common and which was a way to expose law enforcement officers who keep on overstepping the limits.
Can anyone say “Rodney King“? While I was joking around about the Law & Order episode, mobile phones and video cameras are fast becoming effective tools in the balance of power between law enforcement & state officials and the citizens in their care. I don’t believe that every police officer and state official is bad; I know many who are genuinely compassionate and show it everyday. But power can corrupt. And when it does, checks and balances such as the fear of having your actions broadcast to the public, can hopefully be a deterrent or at least, as evidence in the investigation.
My heart goes out to Wei’s family.