Viral road-rage video sparks mob violence in Beijing, revealing deep regional rifts

A road-rage video went viral on Chinese social media last month, showing a motorist from the northeastern province of Dongbei berating an e-bike rider from Beijing, deriding him for being a native-born Beijinger (the cyclist spoke in Beijing dialect) and lording it over him that migrants from outlying provinces are prosperous enough to drive cars while Beijingers are riding e-bikes ("F*ck you Beijingers! ...While us outsiders (外地人) are driving cars, you poor-ass Beijingers are still riding miserable e-bikes."

The video touched a nerve in Beijing, where simmering resentments over newcomers to the city boiled over. The driver was doxed and turned himself in to police in fear for his safety, but when he left the police station, he was set upon by a nativist mob and had to be dragged back into the police station for his safety. He ultimately issued a groveling apology begging the mobs to leave his family alone.

Chinese state censors ordered the video of the mob violence blocked and attempts to share it on Chinese social media are automatically removed.

The incident highlights the changes in contemporary China, which has, for generations, limited the freedom of movement of its citizens according to central planning dictates, which established who could move where and when. While this system has always been porous (many of the 80,000,000 women who moved from the provinces to the factory cities of the Pearl River Delta relocated without permission), it has historically been a very managed process.

But as China seeks to maintain its historic growth, grapple with the demographic crisis of an aging workforce with not enough workers coming of age (a legacy of the "one child" policy), and clamp down on ethnic minorities and dissidents, the system has become more chaotic. In the capital, the national crisis of "regional discrimination" is close to the surface, with newcomers and native-born in frequent conflict.

When news of the man’s detainment made its rounds through social media, a group of Beijingers came out to the police station in support of the biker, demanding apologies from the Liaoning driver. On one video that has spread online, the large group of people can be heard scanting “F*ck you!” and “Apologies! Apologies!” (“Daoqian! Daoqian!”).

This video, at 1:50, shows how the situation turned violent, with angry people starting to attack the man as he exits the police station after processing the case. Realising the situation could potentially be dangerous for the man, the police allegedly took him back in afterward to protect the man from the mob.

Realising the situation could potentially be dangerous for the man, the police allegedly took him back in afterward to protect the man from the mob.

Fury and Loathing in Fengtai: How One Incident Sparked Chaos in Beijing Neighborhood [Miranda Barnes/What's on Weibo]

(via Naked Capitalism)

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