Attack by farmer who had lost land draws cheers, not criticism, from many Chinese netizens, who compare him to a revolutionary hero from the 1940s

Three explosions targeting government buildings rocked the Chinese city of Fuzhou, in southern Jiangxi province, on Thursday morning, leaving at least two people dead and six others injured.

The bombs were triggered by an unemployed 52-year-old local resident, Qian Mingqi, who was likely an aggrieved farmer, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

A day before the blast, Qian had appeared to warn of the attack in a message on his account on the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, Sina Weibo. Suggesting his home had been demolished illegally, he wrote: “I have been petitioning [the government] for ten years, but now I am forced to take a path I did not want to take.”

Qian triggered the home-made bombs at three different locations within the span of one hour, all in the vicinity of local government offices.

The first bomb was placed in a car outside the city’s procuratorate, or judicial, office. The other bombs targeted the local Linchuan district government office, which also handles petitions from aggrieved residents, and the food and drug administration.

According to Xinhua, Qian was killed in the explosion, which left two people dead and at least six others injured, three of them critically.

The blasts left shattered the windows of the eight-story court office, taking place less than 100 metres away from the building.

The attack triggered heated debate in China’s vibrant online community, through which the news rapidly spread through Thursday even as local authorities sought to clamp down on reporting. According to one local journalist, local police deleted photographs of the explosions taken by passersby, and later blocked roads in surrounding neighbourhoods. Little information was released by local authorities.

Photographs did, however, circulate quickly through Sina Weibo, which has more than 100 million users. Early pictures showed a mushroom cloud rising above crowded streets, and the debris of shattered cars.

Thousands of Weibo users posted messages of the attack, with a majority of them expressing sympathy with Qian.

A number of recent land rights cases have triggered heated debate in China, emerging as a leading source of social unrest. In many cases, local governments have been accused of colluding with real estate developers to illegally acquire farmland.

Jiangxi saw another high-profile land rights conflict last year, when three people set themselves on fire to protest the forced demolition of their home.

In a message posted at 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning on his Weibo account, Qian said his newly built home had been illegally demolished, and he had incurred huge losses.

After unsuccessfully petitioning the local government to hear his case, he said he was “forced to take a path I did not want to take.”

Under Chinese laws, citizens can petition local governments for redressing their grievances. However, critics of the petitioning system say their cases are rarely heard when local governments — or developers with whom they enjoy close ties — are involved. Petitioners are often harassed and even jailed for repeatedly raising their cases.

Almost every message posted on the Weibo account of Fuzhou’s Public Security Bureau, or police authority, blamed the local government for the attack. “If you push the farmers so hard, they will take extreme measures,” one user wrote.

Others drew comparisons between Qian and Dong Cunrui, a Communist Party hero from the civil war in the 1940s.

Dong was celebrated as a hero of the People’s Liberation Army, and later became the subject of a popular war film. He sacrificed his life by blowing up a bunker with explosives — an act of martyrdom, he said, for “a new China.” He died on May 25, 1948, leaving some to wonder whether the timing of Qian's act was more than a coincidence.

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