An angry mob scuffled with police and overturned a military vehicle in the central Chinese province of Hubei on Saturday after a military officer used a gun to intimidate an old man blocking his way, local citizens and police said.
The officer’s vehicle bearing the plate “Kong (Air Force) L20417” had approached a busy downtown intersection between Renmin Road and Huafeng Road in Xiangfan city, where it came close to two motorbikes seemingly obstructed its path.
The officer in military uniform got out of the car, waving the gun towards the old man, one of the motorbike riders, and threatening to open fire if he did not give way.
His threat angered bystanders, who surrounded the officer and called the police. The swelling crowd smashed and overturned the military vehicle.
Policemen who came to the scene eventually led the military officer away and baton-charged the crowd, sparking a confrontation.
There was a scuffle and several people were detained.
A policeman later claimed that the officer had used a fake pistol, but this could not be verified.
According to eyewitnesses, by midnight Saturday there were at least 10,000 people at the scene. The angry crowd also destroyed some guard rails on the road.
“Saturday night I was working in our store across from the intersection, and we couldn’t get out because it was too crowded outside,” said a local citizen on Monday.
When asked about those detained during the clash, an official with the Xiangfan city government said he had not seen the police report.
“We cannot publicize any news now because we have not yet received a detailed report from the city police,” the official said over the phone.
However, a duty police officer at the city’s emergency dispatch center indicated that several people had been held.
“What happened on Saturday evening was a traffic accident, in which someone used a handgun to point at a man’s head. We sent patrolling officers to the scene and they took the relevant people to nearby Migong station,” the officer said in an interview on Monday.
A policeman who answered the phone at the Migong station however gave evasive answers.
“I cannot confirm if the [gun-wielding] man was from the military or not,” he said. “His gun was a fake.”
When requested to provide the number of people at the scene, he said, “There might have been several hundreds of them.”
A post on a local media site said that the military officer was from the 5713 Factory of the People’s Liberation Army, and he used a fake pistol in the incident. The post also revealed that six people were taken away by police from the scene.
Reported by Qiao Long from Hong Kong for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Ping Chen.