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Legal Daily report on mass incidents in China in 2012

Image from ESWN: The Shishou Mass Incident (2009)

The Legal Daily 法治日报 has published a summary of their ’2012 Mass Incident Research Report’ 2012年群体性事件研究报告, quantifying and analyzing ‘mass incidents’ in China – riots, civil unrest, and protests. The data sources and methodology behind the report are not made explicit in their introduction (which says the full report can be provided if you contact them; Danwei has not yet obtained a copy of the full report).

The summary does not give an absolute number of mass incidents in 2012, and the numbers in the geographical distribution section which seem to indicate, for example, that Guangdong only had eight mass incidents, do not make sense when compared to previous reports by Chinese government organs that talked about 80 to 100,000 mass incidents a year nationwide.

The report highlights Weibo as an increasingly significant factor in mass incidents, and makes recommendations that local authorities take “positive” steps like making official announcements and dealing with the person responsible for the situation, rather than using “negative” methods such as information blackouts, forced dispersals and arrests.

Some key statistic of the report are summarized below:

Duration of mass incidents
Most incidents end within a day; the report says the duration of mass incidents in 2012 was:

• 1 day: 75.6%
• 2-7 days: 20%
• 7 days to 3 months: 4.4%

Geographical distribution – Most restive provinces
Guangdong, Sichuan and Henan provinces had the most mass incidents with 8, 5 and 4 respectively. Note the caveat about the numbers above.

The report says that in 2012 there was a greater variety of causes of mass incidents than previously, and lists the following:

• Environmental rights defense 环境维权 8.9%
• Ethnic conflict 族群冲突 8.9%
• Conflict between officials and the people 官民冲突 13.3%
• Forced demolitions / removals 征地强拆 22.2%
• Conflict between police and the people 警民冲突 22.2%
• Social disputes / issues 社会纠纷 24.4%

Public interests vs private interests
The reports says cases where the public interest is harmed (公共利益受损) are the most common types of mass incident causes — 57.8% — whereas harm to private interests (个人利益受损) is the cause of 42.2% of mass incidents.

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

• Foreign nationals 外籍人士 2.2%
• Minorities 少数民族 4.4%
• Students 学生 11.1%
• Migrants 外来人口 17.8%
• Farmers / rural residents 农民 46.7%
• Residents of cities and towns 城镇居民 51.1%

How mass incidents develop
The report recommends local governments put a lot of effort into preparing emergency response mechanisms to deal with mass incidents, as it breaks the timing an nature of mass incidents into the following categories:

• Suddenly breaking 临时突发的 53%
• Organized in advance 事前有组织 31%
• Progressively / gradually unfolding 递进式开展分别占到总体的和 16%

Means of organization: ‘social media cannot be ignored’
The report says the following methods were used to organize mass incidents in 2012:

• Unknown 不确定: 2.2%
• Instant messaging 即时通讯: 4.4%
• Forum 论坛: 4.4%
• Weibo 微博: 13.3%
• Personal (face to face / phone call) 人际(当面/电话): 95.6%

The report says that although the majority of mass incidents are organized face to face / in person or by telephone call, social media ‘cannot be ignored’. From the report:

It’s worth noting that in 13.3% of mass incidents new media Weibo was used as an organizational 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 organizing 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 professionalize their use of official Weibo accounts and their monitoring and control of public sentiment on the Internet.


Aftermath of mass incidents
The report recommends careful consideration of how to ‘achieve win-win endings’to mass incidents, and gives the following numbers for the end-results of mass incidents in 2012:

• Fatalities 人员死亡: 8.9%
• Peaceful resolution和平解决: 11.1%
• Injuries人员受伤: 71.1%
• Damage to property财产损失: 73.3

Negative and positive measure to deal with mass incidents
According to the report, government organs dealing with mass incidents n 2012 used the following types of responses:

• Negative measures 负面应对措施 62.2%
• Positive measures 正面应对措施 57.8%
• No measures taken 无应对 15.6%

Positive measures are defined as:
• Official announcement官方声明
• Thorough investigation 深入调查
• Dealing with responsible person 处理负责人
• Consoling / persuading / advising concerned parties 慰问/劝说当事人
• Publicizing 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

Links and sources
Legal Daily: 2012年群体性事件研究报告, 法制网发布《2012年群体性事件研究报告》
ESWN: Statistics of Mass Incidents (2006); image also from ESWN: The Shishou Mass Incident (2009)