The Wuhan Incident (Chinese: 七二零事件; pinyin: Qī èrlíng shìjiàn; literally: "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, at the height of the Cultural Revolution. The two opposing forces were the Million Heroes (Chinese: 百万雄师) and the Wuhan Workers' General Headquarters (Chinese: 工人总部). The former, 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, 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.
All over China during the Cultural Revolution, provincial and municipal governments were replaced by organizations known as Revolutionary Committees (alliances of cadres, soldiers and student/worker groups) to take charge of governing the country and cleansing it 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.
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. A message from Zhou Enlai in Beijing ordered General Chen to lift the siege, but the order was ignored.
When the order from Zhou failed to dispel the mutiny, the radical intellectual and Minister of Public Security Xie Fuzhi and Wang Li (both prominent members of the Cultural Revolution Group) were dispatched from Beijing to Wuhan. Xie and Wang arrived on July 16 and immediately ordered General Chen to withdraw support from the Million Heroes and instead extend it to the Workers' Headquarters.
However, Chen again refused, and on 20 July forces belonging to Chen's mutinous PLA division captured and physically assaulted Xie Fuzhi, while simultaneously the Million Heroes captured Wang Li.
In a last attempt to resolve the crisis, Zhou Enlai himself flew to Wuhan, but tanks and other military units under the command of General Chen surrounded the local airstrip and prevented his plane from landing. With the failure of peaceful negotiation, Beijing immediately responded by sending three infantry divisions, several navy gunboats, and an airborne unit to intercept 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. It is estimated that about one thousand people were killed in Wuhan during the July 1967 troubles in the city.
- Maurice Meisner (1 April 1999). Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic (Third ed.). Free Press. pp. 353–354. ISBN 978-0-684-85635-3.
- Thomas W. Robinson (1971). "The Wuhan Incident: Local Strife and Provincial Rebellion During the Cultural Revolution". The China Quarterly (47): 413–18.