John Yan: Creating order with Iron Fists 铁拳捶不出秩序

It was a nasty video, the link been posted on my weibo (Chinese version of twitter, but under governance for sure) account for several hours, and with quite a few football supporters impatiently asking me to take a look.

They were desperate for any help.

I receive similar links to all kinds of complaints or protests, almost every day, and I was becoming tired and bored with this stuff. Most of these links disappear overnight, due to propaganda discipline or just that they were fabricated. However, ten hours after the match, the video was still on the weibo website, and even today, the video is still there:

I don’t know how they could allow the video to exist publicly, it is almost a miracle, but it is still there, and it has already been proved the content is not false.

The policeman, in the light blue uniform, and the police assistants, those guys in black uniforms, beat and kicked the football fan with such hatred, that the scene makes you cringe with fear – earing for the life of the fan, fearing for the healthiness of this China Super League, fearing for the future of this sport in China.

It happened on June 27 at an evening league match between Jiangsu Shuntian and Shanghai Shenhua – the severe beating took place less than half an hour after the final whistle. One of the watching Jiangsu supporters used his mobile phone to record how one of his fellow Jiangsu supporters was beaten to half-consciousness.

It was a bad defeat for Jiangsu, the home team, and the fans had been calling for the sacking of head coach, Gao Hongbo, but the fans were not calling for ‘his head’, the protests were demonstrated in proper and even humorous ways.

However, the policemen on site and their assistants, guys in black, had orders that the stadium must be cleared half an hour after the match. After a 1:4 home defeat, there were groups of fans in some stands who didn’t want to leave immediately, they wanted to express their frustrations, they wanted the club to know their feelings.

Then havoc broke out, or should I say, half-havoc, because it was all in a one-way direction: the SECURITY guys beating up the fans. The badly beaten fan was later taken to hospital for emergency treatment. The club GM did pay a visit to the hospital, but everything turns to be quiet and quite afterwards.

Some fans messaged me through weibo, talking about future protests ‘with feet’. As the police and higher authorities are so nervous about any open public gathering, the fans would rather ‘clear the stands’ beforehand, leaving the stands empty for future home matches. However, I doubt this kind of protest would work – Newcastle United fans protests failed with this kind of action. And fans staying away definitely makes the police and Big Brothers happier.

There are no Ultras in China’s football for the moment, as the society is still in the process of loosening up from the state’s grip, mentally and physically. Small sized skirmishes have happened before, but very rarely, and the idea of groups of fans fighting with the police in any stadiums in China is unthinkable. Stadiums in the CSL might not be as polite and clean as the Japanese leagues, but fans are so well behaved they would make English fans yawn.

The police force is not well trained nor prepared for any kind of standoff in stands, their assistants, even less trained – they were hounds looking for action. Nobody tried to understand the suffering of the football fans, and a lack of communication turned this into a horrible scene.

Compared to our European fore-runners, the tragedy in Jiangsu’s stand is just a sad small case, but orders from Iron Fists will never solve problems in stands. What violence gets, is simply more violence.

John Yan is Deputy Editor of