Police in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, have embarked on a gruesome killing spree of dogs this week, after implementing a series of strict policies on pet ownership. The citywide campaign of violence towards dogs has sparked social media outrage, and a boycott hashtag campaign on Weibo with a lot of traction.
The online protest began after a horrific video clip surfaced on the internet in which a white dog can be seen struggling under water while trapped in an animal capture net. Although the video did not expose the perpetrator, Weibo user Huòbǐtè xiǎo féijī 霍比特小肥基 (Huobite hereafter), who shared the clip (in Chinese), said that the dog was drowned on November 9 by a group of urban management officers, also known as chéngguǎn 城管. They apparently mistook the dog for a street dog as it was wandering freely, without a leash.
“All of my neighbors know that it’s my pet. They killed it without asking around if it belonged to someone,” the dog owner told Huobite, who was asked to delete the video because the video owner feared “getting into trouble with local officers.”
Today, Huobite posted another short video (in Chinese) that shows a Corgi being caught in a net. “I don’t know what happened to this puppy after the chengguan captured it,” the Weibo user wrote. “Even though the city wants to impose more restrictions on pet-keeping, they should target owners instead of dogs.”
In another video that has been widely circulated on the Chinese internet, a defenceless stray dog can be seen being repeatedly beaten to death by a man in Hangzhou. To curb the widespread speculation that the assailant was a police officer, the municipal government told (in Chinese) Qiangjiang Daily, a local newspaper, that the dog was killed by a citizen who claimed that the dog had bitten multiple people before.
In light of a violent dog dispute earlier this month in Hangzhou, where a woman was assaulted by a dog owner for scaring his unleashed pet away from her children, the urban management committee of Hangzhou this week launched a campaign to clamp down on pets. Under the new regulations, dog owners will be fined up to 1,000 yuan ($144) if they don’t keep their pets on a leash. Local authorities have the right to take unlicensed dogs away from their owners. In addition, dog-walking is only allowed between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Many people initially applauded the rules as a responsible move to encourage dog etiquette. But after several appalling videos on social media, a number of animal lovers have started questioning the radical approach taken by the local government.
On Weibo, a hashtag campaign, #万人请辞抗议杭州打狗# (wànrén qǐngcí kàngyì hángzhōu dǎ gǒu — ten thousand people protest against Hangzhou’s beating of dogs), is quickly gathering steam. As of the time of this writing, the hashtag has gotten more than 3 million views, with many internet users condemning the Hangzhou government’s cruelty towards dogs. “I will never visit Hangzhou again. From now on, it should stop branding itself as ‘Paradise on Earth’ because it’s more like hell!” one furious Weibo user wrote (in Chinese).
China has a fraught history with dogs. But the conflict between animal lovers and dog haters has intensified rapidly this year due to a handful of violent incidents involving dogs. A future where Chinese people and dogs can coexist peacefully seems distant right now.