On 28 June, at least 10,000 people, and perhaps as many as 30,000 protested the death of a schoolgirl in Weng’an County in southwestern Guizhou, the poorest province in China, overturning police cars and setting fire to the local security bureau. Video and still photographs of the event quickly circulated on the Internet. Shortly after the Weng’an incident, another mass riot broke out in Menglian, in neighboring Yunnan Province, showing that the emotions that fueled the Weng’an riot are not isolated. Whether because of an inability to cover up an incident of this size, the approach of the Beijing Olympics, or for other reasons, Chinese media quickly switched to trying to explain the causes of the incident and to calling for reforms to prevent similar confrontations in the future. Although the Weng’an disturbance was particularly large in scale, similar incidents have erupted in China over at least the last four years. Unlike protestors demonstrating against exorbitant taxation or land requisition, those participating in the Weng’an riot were not involved in the incident that set it off (the death of a girl), suggesting longstanding anger among the populace. Preventing similar incidents in the future marks a serious challenge for the Chinese government.

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