Sunday, January 27, 2008

"They can't arrest everybody"

As reported here

"Do you know that we're going to take a stroll this weekend?" she whispered, using the latest euphemism for the unofficial protests that have unnerved authorities in Shanghai over the past month...The sudden "strolls" by thousands of office workers, company managers, young families and the elderly in this sleek financial hub are the latest chapter in a quiet middle-class battle against government officials. Police, who have routinely put down rural protests by poor farmers, have found it more difficult to intimidate an affluent, educated crowd in a major city. But these protests here have been unusual. They are led by homeowners and professionals .

In the city of Xiamen, thousands of middle-class residents have managed at least temporarily to halt the construction of a $1 billion chemical factory because of environmental concerns. Demonstrators in that city, in Fujian province, relied on the Internet and cellphone text messaging to organize strolls and other opposition.

"We learned from Xiamen," said Gu Qidong, 36, a Shanghai protester and freelance sales consultant in the health-care industry. "We have no other way besides this. We once asked if we could apply for a march permit, and the police said they would never approve it."

First, a small group of protesters met at a shopping center the morning of Jan. 6, shouting "Reject the maglev!" and "We want to protect our homes!" They left after an hour, regrouping later in a neighborhood near where the extension would be built.
A few days later, hundreds of people went to a mall that is popular with tourists and made an evening stop in another affected neighborhood. By Jan. 12, thousands of people were gathering at People's Square and on Nanjing Lu, both high-profile locations in downtown Shanghai, shouting "People's police should protect the people!" and "Save our homes!"
The growing boldness of the protesters has prompted city officials to emphasize that residents should find "normal" channels to vent their unhappiness. "We will forestall and defuse social tensions," Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng said in his annual government report Thursday, in what appeared to be a tacit nod to the protesters' concerns.
After each stroll, residents upload photos and videos to Chinese Web sites, which are often blocked by the government, and to YouTube, a site that isn't. The project has turned neighbors who did not know each other into close friends and allies who now compare notes and strategize.

"They can't arrest everybody," said Yao, a 58-year-old protester .

We can dismiss the description of them being the "middle" classes and all company managers , but what the report does reflect is the rising demand for democratic rights that inevitably arises with the growth and development of capitalism . What is still sad is that they still talk about "their" people's police "their" government , "their" constitution .

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