A pretty shocking report from China in The Guardian.
Update: This site claims Lu Banglie survived: "Lu Banglie has been sent back to this home in Hubei. He is alive, but his exact condition is not known" (translation from here). Here is a really thorough chronology of the Taishi election, which is the background to the attack. It makes compelling reading. There are some powerful forces vying in China right now. This is an interesting analysis of the general context from EastSouthWestNorth.
Update: This site also says Lu Banglie is alive: "According to Yao Lifa, who is a national people's congress delegate, 'Lu Banglie came back from Guangzhou to Yichang by airplane and then was sent to Zhijiang City. He arrived at his home around 4pm in the company of the local police.' According to Lu's sister, 'He appeared physically alright. He seemed to be able to speak and take care of everything else. He took off his clothes and washed them himself. He said, 'Today is market day, but I won't be able to help you.''" (translation from here).
Update: There is an emerging debate about whether it may not only have been the assault that was "pretty shocking" but also the Guardian's reporting of it. There seems little doubt that the activist was fairly horrifically beaten by thugs at Taishi, but there is a suggestion that there may have been exageration in Benjamin Joffe-Walt's account. In particular, doubt is being cast on sentences like: "He lay there - his eye out of its socket, his tongue cut, a stream of blood dropping from his mouth, his body limp, twisted. The ligaments in his neck were broken, so his head lay sideways as if connected to the rest of his body by a rubber band." The basis of the attacks on the reporting is that Lu Banglie now seems to be out of hospital and describes his injuries in this way:
After the examination, the hospital said that I had quite a bit of muscle injury, including two spots that were bleeding. I had bleeding on my upper arm and then the shoulder ... the principal diagnosis was "muscle injury" as well as "external head injuries." That was at the Bailizhou hospital. But the examination at Zhijiang basically said that there were no real problems. But I still feel more foggy than before. I am hurting all over, but there are not too many visible signs. Therefore, I think that they were pretty good at beating people. I cannot eat much right now. I can eat a little bit, slowly. I can control my movements and thinking. My body aches, but my will power can control the aches. (From an interview with Radio Free Asia).
It is definitely the case that some of the Guardian's critics are using this issue as a way to avoid the basic fact that a man was horrifically beaten by thugs. However, if Joffe-Walt did not report strictly accurately then, to say the least, it is very bad thing to have done to the villagers. He probably deserves some benefit of the doubt. The facts have not been properly established and he said in his original article that he had himself been assaulted and that he was in a state of shock when writing it. But, if he over wrote this thing, then he should be ashamed of himself.
Anyway, here is Radio Free Asia's full interview with Lu Banglie. The story stands apart from the issue of Joffe-Walt's reporting:
Interview of Lu Banglie by Zhang Min (Radio Free Asia), October 10, 2005.
The Hubei province Zhijiang City national people's congress delegate Lu Banglie was attacked in Taishi village by unknown persons but has returned back to Zhijiang City. He stayed at his sister's home around 4-5pm on October 10. That evening, he was interviewed by me at a friend's place.
Lu Banglie related his journey to Taishi Village with The Guardian reporter Benjamin Joffe-Walt and assistant Mr. Chen: "He said that he needed to go into the village and check out the actual situation. At around 7-8pm or 8-9pm, we were in the village. The car was about 300-400 meters away from the Taishi village committee office. At a corner, the car was blocked by several motorcycles. We wanted to go to the village committee office but many people came and surrounded the car. They would not let us proceed any further. We said that we would back up the car, but they wouldn't not let us do that either. They looked at us and pointed to me, as if they recognized me.
Q: How many people were in the car?
A: Four people, including the driver. This was a taxi that we hired. I did not ask the name of the driver. On the car too were Benjamin Joffe-Walt and Mr. Chen. The people outside the car were questioning the two reporters sitting behind. The people up front then opened the car door. I sat in the front and they dragged me out. They hit my head with their fists and kicked me all over the body. I fell to the ground and then I passed out. Later on, they poured water on me and I was startled. I only knew that someone poured water on me. I don't know what happened afterwards.
Q: Where did you wake up?
A: When I woke up, the car was almost in Changsa. (Comment from aside) They said that they were members of the Panyu National People's Congress standing committee. There were five or six people.
Q: How were your injuries?
A: At the time, my head hurt. I was dizzy. So I slept all the way to Zhijiang. I threw up several times, including only water. It was difficult to bear. They wanted to give me something to eat. I said that I couldn't eat because I would surely throw up again. I said that I would eat after we stop. But they did not offer me anything when we stopped. At around 6-7pm on October 9, they took me to a hotel in Zhijiang City and contacted the Zhijiang City National's People's Congress standing committee. Then they just ignored me. Afterwards, they arranged for two Bailizhou officials to take me to the hospital at Bailizhou. I did not eat anything all day.
Q: What was the diagnosis of your condition at the hospital? Can you tell us what the hospital said and how you personally felt?
A: After the examination, the hospital said that I had quite a bit of muscle injury, including two spots that were bleeding. I had bleeding on my upper arm and then the shoulder ... the principal diagnosis was "muscle injury" as well as "external head injuries." That was at the Bailizhou hospital. But the examination at Zhijiang basically said that there were no real problems. But I still feel more foggy than before. I am hurting all over, but there are not too many visible signs. Therefore, I think that they were pretty good at beating people. I cannot eat much right now. I can eat a little bit, slowly. I can control my movements and thinking. My body aches, but my will power can control the aches.
Q: Before you passed out, what do you remember the scene was like? How many people were assaulting you?
A: When my hair was pulled, there were five or six people beating me. I don't know how many more after that.
Q: According to what you know, within your group, was anyone else injured other than yourself?
A: They started with me. I don't know what happened afterwards.
Q: How were your attackers dressed? Who do you think they are?
A: At the time, I was not sure. They seemed to be dressed in ordinary clothes. Later on, I heard the person from their National People's Congress standing committee said: "Those were peasants." He also said: "Do you think that the peasants over there are more violent? They are somewhat more barbaric?" At the time, I was still dizzy and I told them: "This was not peasant savagery. This was government savagery." At the time, they smiled.
Q: After having gone through this incident, what are thinking?"
A: I think if the government over there can use these types of high-pressure tactics to treat the people and their legal actions to protect their own rights, then this is too disheartening! Really! If the Chinese peasants are suppressed and abused like this and the legal paths are closed off, it will be a tragedy in the end. When those oppressed people have nowhere to do, they may resort to violence. As for me, if I cannot go the legal way, I might have to resort to violence in the end. That would be tragic.
Q: What will you be doing? Is there anything that you want to do? Will you continue to care about Taishi village? How will you show your concern?
Q: I will continue to be concerned about Taishi village. I will still stay within the boundaries of the law to offer them assistance, support and care. I hope that the Taishi village incident will gain the high attention of the central government which should give support to the people's legal efforts to protect their rights in accordance with the law and to stop the savage actions of the local government. I hope that the central government will offer support and assistance.
Lu Banglie has not yet returned to his own home, because he did not want to alarm his 80-year-old mother. He just stopped by at his sister's home but he did not tell her what happened so as not to get them worried. He is staying with a friend. He wants to recover better before returning home.
Update: The Guardian has issued a correction to the Chinese beating story. This explanation, which appeared a couple of days after the correction, gives a full account from the Guardian readers' editor of the Guardian's view of the faulty report. I feel it is a pretty impressive response and shows that the Guardian is a serious and responsible newspaper. Now, can we get back to the issue of why a man was severely beaten in Taishi?