Wuhan Incident


Wuhan Incident

The Wuhan Incident (zh-c|c=七二零事件, the July 20th Incident) was an armed conflict in the People's Republic of China between two hostile groups who were fighting for control over the city of Wuhan in July 1967. The two opposing forces were the "Million Heroes" (zh-c|c=百万雄师), numbering about 500,000 people, comprised mainly skilled workers, state and local party employees, and were supported by the local PLA, led by its divisional commander, General Chen Zaidao. The "Wuhan Workers' General Headquarters"(zh-c|c=工人总部), also numbering close to 500,000 people, was mostly comprised workers and students from Red Guard organizations.

Both sides engaged in an extensive propaganda war in an attempt to enlist community support. This included publishing posters and pamphlets and holding street meetings to vilify their opponent.

Background

All over China during the Cultural Revolution, provincial and municipal governments were being toppled to make way for tribunals known as "Revolutionary Committees" to take charge of cleansing China from "counterrevolutionary forces" and "reactionary elements". Various local organs took advantage of the politically chaotic environment to seize power, branding their rival factions with various labels.

Chronology

Following the failed attempt by the Workers' Headquarters faction to seize power in the city, General Chen supplied the Million Heroes with arms and led a siege against the Workers' Headquarters faction. Zhou Enlai ordered General Chen to lift the siege but was disobeyed.

In response to the Wuhan Mutiny, the radical intellectual and Minister of Public Security Xie Fuzhi, and Wang Li, another important figure in the Cultural Revolution Group, were dispatched from Beijing to Wuhan. The two, arriving on 16 July, ordered General Chen to withdraw support from the Million Heroes and instead extend it to the Workers' Headquarters.

Chen again refused, and on 20 July, forces belonging to the mutinous PLA division detained Xie Fuzhi (and badly beat him), while allowing the Million Heroes to kidnap and hide Wang Li.

In a last attempt to resolve the crisis, Zhou Enlai himself flew to Wuhan, but tanks and other armour under the command of General Chen prevented his plane from landing.

Beijing immediately responded by sending three infantry divisions, navy gunboats, and an airborne unit to face General Chen's forces in Wuhan. Faced with overwhelming firepower, Chen surrendered unconditionally, and Wang Li and Xie Fuzhi were released and returned to Beijing on 25 July. About one thousand people are estimated to have been killed in Wuhan during the July 1967 period.

References

* Thomas W. Robinson. "The Wuhan Incident: Local Strife and Provincial Rebellion During the Cultural Revolution," "The China Quarterly" (1971), 47: pp. 413-18.


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