“Glass Rained In Like Powder”: A Firsthand Account Of A “Chengguan” Attack In Beijing

Derrick Sobodah chengguan bleeding hand

This morning, my wife and I set out to make a trip to the hospital. Because we were in a rush, we decided to rent a sanlunche (motorized tricycle) to take us to the nearest subway station. We hailed one on the main road outside the north gate of our community at about 8:45 am.

Our driver proceeded westbound on Chaoyang Road until reaching the McDonald’s across the north gate of Beijing International Studies University. At the intersection, she turned right onto Dingfuzhang Street and proceeded north toward Dalianpo station on Subway Line 6.

After driving 300 meters, the driver said someone was following her and asked us to pay the fare immediately. The unknown car continued to tailgate us as we passed the nearby Jingkelong, and our driver made a hard right onto a small community road hoping they would give up pursuit.

What happened was the complete opposite.

In less than 50 meters the car flanked us and forced our driver off the road. The sanlunche went up onto two wheels and almost rolled over.

Looking out the window we saw that the car was marked as belonging to the Sanjianfang Town birth control department. Our driver kept shouting at the men to stop following her.

Two young men between the ages of 16 and 19 jumped out of the car brandishing clubs. They were wearing ill-fitting coats that looked like generic ones used by most private security guards.

One man screamed, “Fuck your mother!” and smashed in the right rear window, which was beside me. Glass rained in like powder, with the small bits sticking to my hands and large chunks landing in my shoes and coat pockets.

A moment later, the window on my wife’s side was smashed by another of the men.

Our driver took off again and the men did not pursue. By the time we reached the subway my hands were bleeding in six places.

The driver said the attackers were “black” (gang-related) “chengguan” who are being employed illegally by the Sanjianfang Town government. [Ed's note: chengguan are street-level, often extrajudicial urban management officers who have a reputation for behaving poorly. We can't say for sure the attackers were chengguan, but they were driving a government vehicle.]

When we got on the subway, my wife took a few pictures of the glass, which we were digging out of our pockets, and of my hands, which were still bleeding.

At first I regretted not pulling out my camera to record the incident. In hindsight, had I done so my wife and I would have certainly completed our trip to the hospital – most likely by way of ambulance.

Derrick Sobodash is the deputy editor-in-chief of Beijing Today

“The first X on the route is where the car began following us. The second X is where the attack took place. There actually is a new road there, but Baidu Ditu and Google do not index it yet.”

Derrick Sobodah chengguan broken glass

    8 Responses to ““Glass Rained In Like Powder”: A Firsthand Account Of A “Chengguan” Attack In Beijing”

    1. Harland

      Oh my goodness! A red mark! On thy holy foreign hand!

      A queer thought – maybe foreigners shouldn’t take illegal taxis? Nah, foreigners are above the law and should never, ever be held accountable for their actions.

      • Med

        Sure, and getting your car smashed or being beaten down with a stick is definitely the right way of “being held accountable for your actions”…

      • Icky

        Taking an illegal taxi is not against the law, assualt however, most certainly is. The experience sounds very traumatic, I hope Derricks wife makes a full recovoury. I have seen those thugs in action in shanghai as well there use reflects very poorly on China and it’s government.

        • Chinese Netizen

          “…reflects very poorly on China and it’s government.”
          Yeah…as if the government’s actions alone don’t reflect poorly enough!

        • Derrick Sobodash

          I only had a few cuts that healed up within a few hours. You could be hurt much worse playing sports. My wife was wearing gloves, so none of the glass got on her skin. She’s still finding glass in her purse and pockets, but that’s about it.

          The driver made it away without being beaten, so the only thing she lost was the cost of replacing the windows in her taxi.

          Honestly, no one was hurt. Their attitude of immediate violence is the real problem. The chengguan almost made the car roll over by crashing into the side of it. That could have really injured everyone involved.

          If they simply blocked the driver, detained her and fined us, I would have considered it completely reasonable.

      • Derrick Sobodash

        Obvious troll post, but I’ll bite.

        Congratulations on having never bought fruit or produce on the street before, or visited a night market, or bought a soda, tanghulu or sweet potato from a vendor near the subway. Those are all equally “illegal.” I’m sure your lifetime of shopping in Carrefour helped you learn so much more about China.

        The point wasn’t that I was “injured”: you could get more cuts and bruises in an afternoon of playing any contact sport.

        The point was that jumping out with bats and breaking shit after running a car off the road is a very dangerous way to enforce the law. If they had grabbed everyone, tackled whoever ran and held us till the police showed up, I would have nothing to complain about.

    2. tpk

      From ur writing style I’m guessing ur a bit of a Dick
      Why would anyone need to share this story
      U mention above many examples of day to day purchasing situations in China and classify them as normal
      The event u so eagerly discuss falls in the same category…. Normal
      I’m guessing its the hilight of the past 6 months for u and wife
      I’m also guessing u were single for a long time pre China

    3. Jake the Muss!

      “glass rained in like powder” . . .

      Powder don’t normally rain though does it?

      You fucking powder puff prat!


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