‘Taishi Kangyi’: Invasion of the Body Snatchers

body-snatchers-china

Why Aggrieved Chinese Citizens and Chinese Police Are Fighting Over Corpses

Yaqiu Wangwangyaqiu writes: On the morning of March 16, 48-year-old Huang Shunfang went to her local hospital located in Fanghu Township in the central Chinese province of Henan. Her doctor diagnosed her with gastritis, gave her a dose of antacids through an IV, and sent her on her way. Huang died suddenly that afternoon. In the hours after her death, Huang’s family went to the hospital for an explanation and was told by the hospital leadership that “the hospital is where people die,” according to a witness’ account of the incident.

“The corpse is the most sensitive… People who have ulterior motives use the dead body to pressure the government… Onlookers, out of curiosity and sympathy, encircle the corpse forming a large crowd. If the corpse is not removed in time, a mass incident can break out at any time…”

Incensed, Huang’s family visited the local public security bureau and the health bureau, both to no avail. Four days later, on March 20, after rejecting the hospital’s offer of compensation of RMB 5,000 ($800), the family placed Huang’s corpse outside the gate of the hospital in protest. Soon, over a hundred policemen swooped in to take the body away, beating and detaining Huang’s relatives who tried to resist them.

An illustration from ‘The Washing Away of Wrongs,’ first published in 1247

An illustration from ‘The Washing Away of Wrongs,’ first published in 1247

“’Taishi kangyi,’ or ‘carrying the corpse to protest,’ is a practice with deep roots in Chinese history. Since late imperial times, people have employed it when judicial systems failed to provide a reliable channel of redress for injustice.”

A week earlier, at noon on March 9, during a forced residential demolition operation orchestrated by the township government in Jiangkou Township, Anhui province, 37-year-old Zhang Guimao died when his chicken coop collapsed on him. That afternoon, Zhang’s relatives, along with more than a hundred villagers, carried Zhang’s body into the township government office compound to demand an explanation. At midnight that day, all the streetlights suddenly went dark. Around two hundred riot police carrying shields appeared on the scene to take the body away to the crematorium, detaining at least six people in the process.

 “Especially with the rise of social media in the past ten years or so, families of the dead can post photos or videos online. The rapid spread of such information can turn up the heat on local governments.”

“Taishi kangyi,” or “carrying the corpse to protest,” is a practice with deep roots in Chinese history. Since late imperial times, people have employed it when judicial systems failed to provide a reliable channel of redress for injustice. These days, corpses are dragged into all manner of disputes involving medical malpractices, forced housing demolitions, vendor’s tussles with local patrols, and compensations for workplace accidents.

[Read the full text here, at ChinaFile]

When an accidental death occurs, citizens use the corpse to draw attention and invite sympathy from the wider public, all in an effort to put pressure on the authorities and to render a just outcome. This “highlights the distrust people feel about autopsies or investigations conducted by government organs and China’s justice system,” says Teng Biao, a civil-rights lawyer and visiting scholar at Harvard Law School. “Especially with the rise of social media in the past ten years or so, families of the dead can post photos or videos online. The rapid spread of such information can turn up the heat on local governments.”

Villagers carry the coffin of a man killed after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Lushan, Sichuan Province on April 22, 2013.  Clogged roads, debris and landslides impeded rescuers as they battled to find survivors of a powerful earthquake in mountainous southwest China that has left at least 188 dead.                  AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON        (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Villagers carry the coffin of a man killed after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Lushan, Sichuan Province on April 22, 2013. Clogged roads, debris and landslides impeded rescuers as they battled to find survivors of a powerful earthquake in mountainous southwest China that has left at least 188 dead. AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

“A common scene across China today pits families, friends, and local residents barricading a dead body in concentric circles against police, often numbering in the hundreds and armed with batons and shields.” 

It’s that heat that perhaps has driven Chinese law enforcement to ever-more coordinated and deliberate attempts to curb corpse-keeping. A common scene across China today pits families, friends, and local residents barricading a dead body in concentric circles against police, often numbering in the hundreds and armed with batons and shields.

“The police break through the crowds to reach the corpse and ‘snatch’ it. Local governments, following standard operating procedures developed in recent years, apply this practice known as ‘qiangshi,’ or ‘snatching the corpse,’ when a case of accidental death occurs.”

The police break through the crowds to reach the corpse and “snatch” it. Local governments, following standard operating procedures developed in recent years, apply this practice known as “qiangshi,” or “snatching the corpse,” when a case of accidental death occurs….(read more)

ChinaFile


2 Comments on “‘Taishi Kangyi’: Invasion of the Body Snatchers”

  1. Brittius says:

    Reblogged this on Brittius.

  2. […] ‘Taishi Kangyi': Invasion of the Body Snatchers (punditfromanotherplanet.com) […]


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