Looting orgy at Chinese mine

(First Edition)

WHEN the peasants of Yingde county in southern China saw their local coal mine preparing to close, petty theft turned into what the Canton newspaper Yangcheng Wanbao called 'more or less open robbery' and finally 'massive collective looting'.

For three days last month, 600 to 700 peasants swarmed over the mine in Guangdong province, beating up miners who refused to pay protection money, stealing everything that could be moved and using looted dynamite to blow up heavy equipment for scrap. Even the red scarves of the Youth Pioneers were taken, along with the primary school's 400lb iron gate. Riot police had to be brought in to stop the 'mad plundering'.

By the time the newspaper's reporter reached the scene, Jintan Branch Mine lay in ruins. The 35,000kW high-voltage line to the complex had been cut. The repair shop was emptied of rail cars and large quantities of steel rail, while the water treatment system was demolished for its steel reinforcing beams.

Nor did the mine's staff facilities escape. Chairs, bowls, chopsticks and even jars of preserved vegetables were all taken from the mess hall, as were the electric cookers, crockery, stoves and drainpipes in the kitchen. Things that could not be removed, such as refrigerators, chopping blocks and boilers, were blown to pieces. Nearly half the mine's 229 workers fled during the orgy of looting.

Seeking to explain how so much state property could be plundered for so long without hindrance, Yangcheng Wanbao blamed incompetence and complacency among local party and law enforcement officials. Police had been assigned to the mine as it gradually closed down but they withdrew after six months, during which nothing had been done to remove the equipment. Leading officials had already found jobs elsewhere and the miners, who had not been paid for two months, showed little inclination to protect their employers' property when villagers, 'not caring whether it was day or night', sacked the mine between 6 and 9 May.

China's widening gap between rich and poor is most obvious in Guangdong province. Factories bordering Hong Kong pay the highest wages in the country, but much of the interior remains untouched by the wealth. While this may account for the eruption of greed which laid waste to Jintan Branch Mine, an encounter with some of those arrested afterwards left the Canton journalist uneasy.

They were all about 20, with only three to five years' schooling. 'All were saying: 'I am not sure that what we did broke the law. Everybody was taking things. I just joined them.' '. His article concluded: 'These illiterates, semi-illiterates and law-illiterates have the potential to be a great problem for law and order in the 1990s.'

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Planner

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - C#, ASP.Net, MVC, jQuery

£42000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking for a C# ...

Recruitment Genius: General Driver - Automotive

£15500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading Motor Re...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food