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Angry his wheel was clamped, Shenzhen man tries to blow up own car

Posted: 01/8/2014 7:41 pm

A man in Shenzhen’s Nanshan District tried to blow up his own car after he was clamped for illegally parking last week.

After parking on a yellow line on Jan. 3 while he went to withdraw money from the Ping’an Bank in Baishizhou, Mr. Chen came out to discover that he had been clamped. He then lit a book and threw it into the back seat of the car in an attempt to blow it up. Luckily, the traffic cops and a number of passers by were on hand to prevent the blaze leading to an explosion, Jiangxi Television reported today.

The source of Chen’s anger was an obscure technicality. His claim that the yellow line he was parked on was on a “government road” but not a “community road,” therefore if he was to be punished then it should have been by traffic cops and not regular cops.

You can see footage of him raging here:


PRD People: Shenzhen-based Anthropologist and artist Mary Ann O’Donnell

Posted: 12/19/2013 11:00 am

If you wander through Shenzhen with a camera and a notebook, you are sure to find some incredible human stories. Doing just this has inspired the unique career of American anthropologist Mary Ann O’Donnell.

Walking the line between art and academia, O’Donnell has spent most of her working life here and her writing on the city has appeared in a large number of prestigious publications.

She kindly took the time to talk to The Nanfang about life in the city.

Mary Ann O’Donnell giving a talk at Shenzhen University’s School of Architecture, image via Sina.

Fascination with urban environments

O’Donnell first came to Shenzhen in 1995 to do research for her PhD in Cultural Anthropology at Rice University in Houston, a sister city. The dissertation, titled “Strategic Recognition: Watching the State in Shenzhen” covered post-Mao urbanisation.

Topics she was interested in included boom economies, the creation of wasteland through dumping, and how electronics was transforming landscapes.

Shenzhen, particularly its chengzhongcun (urban villages), was highly conducive to pursuing her interests. However, as a 2010 article in CNN Travel put it, “(this) amorphous, ephemeral kind of city, was far too complex to be packaged into a theory-bound academic paper.” Now more interested in the arty than the academic, O’Donnell devotes most of her time to a non-profit organisation called the CZC Special Forces (城中村特工队).

The team has had six months of gatherings at a “handshake building,” that is a complex so cramped that neighbours can reach across the alleys between buildings and shake hands. “The team uses art and research that engages urban villages in new ways,” she said.

Its goal is to give young artists a chance to show their work, and to engage a new audience.

O’Donnell hopes this will circulate in Shenzhen: “Someone who lives in Baishizhou is not going to leave Baishizhou to attend an art exhibit in another urban village,” she explained.

The team is applying for Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status.

Art & theatre

Married to a Chinese writer, O’Donnell is highly involved with the local arts scene. Her theatre troupe Fat Bird was legally registered in 2005 and is one of the few independent ones in the country.

Aided by cultural grants from the Nanshan District government, Fat Bird stages 2-3 original works a year. The latest, “Urban Fetish Baishizhou,” will be shown at The Value Factory (Venue A) at the ongoing Biennale during the first weekend of January.

The previous production,The Jasmine War was premiered in June.

Moreover, thanks to the CZC Special Forces, Baishizhou has become a collateral exhibition site at the Biennale. It is the first urban village to do so. Expats can enjoy the Biennale as everything is in English.

Committed to Shenzhen

O’Donnell is almost certain to stay in Shenzhen until she retires. “What I do and how I do it is basically all tied into the city,” she said.

With this deep attachment to Shenzhen comes considerable knowledge of some great locations. She is a fan of Xiasha in Futian District where there is a recently-completed temple which has been gilded, and the Suzhou-style garden in Huanggang.

For dining, one of her favourite places is Chegongmiao in Futian District. A vegetarian, O’Donnell likes the chain Awakening which has a branch there.

Once a location with many factories, she describes Chegongmiao as a “much grittier” environment than, say, OCT in Nanshan District. She puts this down to the fact that the “yuppification” in Chegongmiao was more organic.

If you want to regularly read such thoughts from one of Shenzhen’s most insightful observers, check out her blog Shenzhen Noted.


Weibo user posts photos of supposed riot in Shenzhen

Posted: 10/30/2013 7:00 am

A Sina Weibo user uploaded images of a riot he says took place in Shenzhen’s Nanshan District yesterday. The user @吴俊南123456 says up to 50 riot police were called in after a vendor was beaten up by chengguan. However, no established local media outlet has yet confirmed the claims.

According to a round-up in, it started when a group of chengguan beat up a vendor and were then surrounded by over 1,000 angry members of the public.

Riot police were then allegedly sent in to restore order. Here are some of the images that were uploaded:

The vendor who was allegedly beaten up by chengguan. The vendor is said to have been from Xinjiang

The chengguan are surrounded by angry passers-by

The riot police arrive

If all these claims are true, it will be a step backward in two very important relationships: that between chengguan and the public and that between Xinjiangese and the Han locals in the places they migrate to.

This month, Guangzhou enacted rules stipulating that Chengguan must show basic courtesy to people they meet. This was aimed at improving the image of the notoriously hated and feared law enforcers.

After weekend’s deadly car crash in Tiananmen Square, Uighur suspects are being sought in connection with the case. It has even been suggested that it may have been a suicide attack by Islamic separatists.

There is always plenty of tension between the Han and the Uighur bubbling just below the surface, as became evident in the Urumqi riots of 2009.

Baishizhou is one of Shenzhen’s most diverse areas. It has been written about extensively by local anthropologist and China-hand Maryann O’Donnell.

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