4 Apr 2015

Protestors attempt mass suicide in Beijing

A reported mass suicide attempt in Beijing shows several people lying on the pavement surrounded by onlookers, after apparently drinking pesticide in a busy shopping centre, writes Danny Vincent.

Warning: this video contains graphic images

This is the video that would be trending on Chinese social media today, if it hadn’t already been deleted by Chinese censors.

An apparent mass suicide attempt in central Beijing. Footage obtained by Channel 4 News shows several people lying on the pavement surrounded by onlookers, after apparently drinking pesticide in a busy shopping centre in the capital. We have been unable to independently verify the film.

Beijing police say that more than 30 people were taken away by ambulances and are receiving treatment in a nearby hospital. There have been no reported fatalities.

Read more: Sisters in arms - protest and punishment in China

According to eyewitnesses on social media, the protestors were a group of taxi drivers who came to Beijing in an attempt to draw awareness to injustices in their home provinces.

Seeking redress

China has promised to reform the age old petitioning system, where Chinese citizens travel to the capital to seek redress for complaints, but the system remains frustrating for many.

Channel 4 News reported earlier in the year on the plight of two sisters who travelled to petition but were detained in mental wards.

Today’s protest is the latest in a series, in a country where the rule of law often seems arbitrary and citizens’ complaints frequently fall on deaf ears.

In the summer of 2014 a Chinese family attempted to kill themselves in Beijing by drinking pesticide after property developers bulldozed their home.

Photographs posted on social media showed two women and five men lying on the ground outside a newspaper office surrounded by their documents.

China’s rapid growth has become the envy of many nations, but many Chinese people feel they have been left behind. The disconnect between the governed and government threatens the very stability that the communist party holds above all else.

It’s led some to question if the country has already reached the endgame of communist rule.

Rights activists say they have seen little change in the treatment of those who speak out against abuses of power.

“No one listens or takes responsibility,” said Zhao, an activist asked to be known only by his family name for fear of reprisal.

“There is no way to communicate with the leaders. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to escape.”