Mass Incidents in 2012

In January 2013, Legal Daily (Fazhi ribao 法制日报) published a summary of a report that tabulated and analysed ‘mass incidents’ in China — riots, civil unrest and protests. The sources of information and the methodology underpinning the report were not clear; the summary also failed to give a total number of mass incidents for 2012. The numbers of incidents by location indicating, for example, that Guangdong experienced only eight mass incidents, made no sense when compared with previous official reports that spoke of an annual total of 80,000–100,000 mass incidents nationwide. But the report did provide a snapshot of some of the challenges faced by the Communist Party. Following are translated highlights from the Legal Daily report.

Duration of Incidents

  • one day: 75.6 percent
  • two to seven days: 20 percent
  • seven days to three months: 4.4 percent.

Geographical Distribution (the most restive provinces)
Guangdong, Sichuan and Henan provinces had the most mass incidents with eight, five and four respectively.

The report declared that in 2012 the causes of mass incidents were more varied than in the past. These included:

  • social disputes/issues 社会纠纷: 24.4 percent
  • forced demolitions/removals 征地强拆: 22.2 percent
  • conflict between the police and the People 警民冲突: 22.2 percent
  • conflict between officials and the People 官民冲突: 13.3 percent
  • defence of environmental rights 环境维权: 8.9 percent
  • ethnic conflict 族群冲突: 8.9 percent.

Public Interest
The report said cases detrimental to the public interest (gonggong liyi shou sun 公共利益受损) are the most common type of mass incident at 57.8 percent, whereas harm to private or individual interests (geren liyi shou sun 个人利益受损) is the cause of 42.2 percent of mass incidents. ‘Public interest’ is defined as something that affects a large group of people — for instance, an environmental problem — whereas an example of ‘private interests’ is damage to a person’s property.

Types of People Involved
Mass incidents in 2012 involved the following types of people:

  • residents of cities and towns 城镇居民: 51.1 percent
  • farmers/rural residents 农民: 46.7 percent
  • migrants 外来人口: 17.8 percent
  • students 学生: 11.1 percent
  • minorities 少数民族: 4.4 percent
  • foreign nationals 外籍人士: 2.2 percent.

Tactical Response
The report recommended that local governments put a major effort into preparing emergency response mechanisms to deal with mass incidents, and divided them into the following categories:

  • spontaneous 临时突发的: 53 percent
  • organised in advance 事前有组织: 31 percent
  • progressively/gradually unfolding 递进式开展: 16 percent.

Means of Organisation
The report said that although the majority of mass incidents are organised face-to-face or by telephone calls, social media ‘cannot be ignored’. From the report:

It’s worth noting that in 13.3 percent of mass incidents, new media Weibo was used as an organisational tool. One can see that the nature of mass incidents is changing with the development of the Internet, and there are more and more methods of organising people who have never met before into an interest group that encourages a mass incident to break out. In these circumstances, all local government departments need to professionalise their use of official Weibo accounts and their monitoring and control of public sentiment on the Internet.

Means of organising:

  • personal (face-to-face/ phone call) 人际 (当面/电话): 95.6 percent
  • Weibo 微博: 13.3 percent
  • instant messaging 即时通讯: 4.4 percent
  • Internet forum 论坛: 4.4 percent
  • unknown 不确定: 2.2 percent.

The report recommends careful consideration of how to ‘achieve win-win outcomes’ in relation to mass incidents, and breaks down the consequences of mass incidents in 2012 as follows:

  • damage to property 财产损失: 73.3 percent
  • injuries 人员受伤: 71.1 percent
  • peaceful resolution 和平解决: 11.1 percent
  • fatalities 人员死亡: 8.9 percent.

Measures Taken
According to the report, the Chinese government dealt with mass incidents in 2012 using the following types of responses:

  • negative measures 负面应对措施: 62.2 percent
  • positive measures 正面应对措施: 57.8 percent
  • no measures taken 无应对: 15.6 percent.

Positive measures are defined as:

  • official announcements 官方声明
  • thorough investigation 深入调查
  • dealing with the persons responsible 处理负责人
  • consoling/persuading concerned parties 慰问/劝说当事人
  • publicising policies, laws and regulations 出台政策法规.

Negative measures are defined as:

  • information blackout 封锁信息
  • dispersal using force 强硬驱散
  • arresting and detaining concerned parties 逮捕/拘留当时人.