Still several months to go until the Olympics, yet just the past few days have seen a number of unrelated mass incidents take place around the country, from the large protest at the Tianmen Party headquarters and a taxi driver strike in solidarity following the the recent beating to death of a local business leader, to the anti-Maglev neighborhood protests that have taken place in downtown Shanghai over the past few days, videos of which have been posted on YouTube by users ubuoo3, qsommerville and tooodou.
Speaking of the Beijing Olympics, or rather its theme song, ‘We Are Ready’, more than ten thousand people marched in Hong Kong on January 13 calling for universal suffrage starting with election of the Chief Executive in 2012:
Back to Hubei province, the Shiyan city bus company has been on strike since Jan. 12, bringing the prefecture-level city to a halt in the midst of a heavy snowfall. Traditional media haven't reported on it, but the bloggers [zh] are talking. SinaBBS user syyanwu has posted two photos:
I strongly denounce the bus company's job action!
In 2003, based on demands of the market economy, Shiyan city carried out brave reforms, and sold the company to a very innovative and trailblazing private businessperson, probably the first time in the country a government had transfered operations of a public transportation system to a private owner.
这次的公交公司停运毫无道理。虽然原因不明，当地媒体也没有就公交停运告知市民。但是显而易见的是，既然是私人老板经营，赚钱第一是天经地义，不要去比什么北京的公交才4角钱，那是政 府解决民生之举，这是私人赚钱发财之道，连政 府都体谅私人老板无利不起早，还不应该老板叫咋的就咋的！
After a bit of back and forth, the bus company was forced back down to 1 yuan.
But this stoppage of bus company services now makes no sense whatsoever. Although the reasons may not be clear, local media haven't even told the city that buses have stopped. What's obvious, though, is that this being a privately-owned operation, it makes sense that earning money is the first priority, so don't go making comparisons to Beijing, where taking the bus only costs 40 cents; that's a move the government in consideration of living standards there, and this is a private means of earning money and becoming wealthy. The government allows for private business to choose where to invest [i.e. freedom to reject the unprofitable], so it should not be doing whatever some private boss says!
Tianya netizens are arguing: if the boss doesn't have any money, why on earth buy a bus company?
One anonymous user at Mop.com writes Tuesday afternoon that the strike has already entered its fourth day:
Writing back on Monday, Sohu blogger Moon-Wind:
What I want to explore is: does going on strike accomplish anything?
Because everyone considers things with respect to their personal gain, whether something suits them, and whether to let it pass. If things truly are the way the striking side has said, and this is about collusion between business and government, striking will certainly not resolve anything. You need to know, that here in Shiyan, it's like a safety deposit box for officials. We've yet to see any cases of severe punishment of officials. Everyone can take a look at that case which concluded recently for starters.
The question now is: is going on strike really the only means by which benefits can be obtained?
1. For the workers, that which they serve is the public. If the strike continues too long, what will people be thinking?
2. Speaking specifically in regards to public transportation, what people see are rising minibus prices and taxis who won't go by the meter. Maybe if all modes of transportation went on strike. Except, has that target been achieved?
2008年1月13日湖北省十堰市公交公司整体大罢工数天造成严重影响 路面上没有一辆公交汽车 私营巴士车辆趁火打劫猛涨价 平时一元的现在要5元开始时间2008年1月12日15:00:00 现在时间2008年1月13日19:39:27 电话13117100986
Starting on January 13, the Shiyan City Bus Company has gone on a total multiple-day strike, creating serious impact. There isn't a single bus on the streets. Privately-owned buses have maliciously raised prices. Normally 1 yuan, starting at 3pm on Jan. 12, 2008, the price went up to 5 yuan. Now it's 7:39 pm on Jan. 13, 2008. Phone: 13117100986.
Sina blogger Shenhanyang mentions the price gouging and direct effects of a media blackout in his Jan. 13 post, ‘Heavy snow in Shiyan, bus drivers show revolutionary spirit and go on strike’:
Marxist rhetoric like that which Shenhanyang goes on to dole out may not be the general tone to any of these discussions, but particularly with the massively-blogged Shanghai protests, there is something similar; from club.cat898 blogger 01free, ‘The awakening of citizen awareness: “walking” on the streets’:
“Walking” down the street—you can't help but admire the people for their intelligence. In this society, which has always seen marches and demonstrations as politically sensitive, with the invention and appearance of these “walks”, you can't not say that this is a kind of remarkable step forward.
To bravely step out from one's own private space, and boldly and openly express one's true thoughts and interest demands, is to expose those political lies sent out under the banner of public interest, and even if the original goal is petty personal interest like not seeing your housing devalued, we still ought to act like this and make some noise.
Walking down the street is still something that feels a little strange to us, like something buried deep in our history, and what follows is collective fanaticism and unconsciousness, mixed with blood, even. Under the current political situation, it's still a dishonorable behavior, and people are most easily able to associate it with the Cultural Revolution style of denouncing people through the streets, and when students lost all reason to political aspirations and the interests and victims of the extreme struggles. When the generation born in the 1980s began learning more how to express themselves virtually online, the possibility of seeing people walk down the streets seemed to move further and further away from us.
But what does this “generation off the streets” lack?
Streets are a definite public space, and they require that everyone on them come with a steep sense of the rules in order to maintain basic order. Pedestrians and vehicles stay to the right, garbage is not to be thrown down randomly, and urination and defecation are definitely not allowed. There you won't see people cursing at or fighting each other for no reason, and even those will less cultivation work hard to contribute to maintaining a nice image.
With the aim of preserving one's independence as well as the integrity of the commons, people, for the most part, get along well with each other. If you look closely, this is precisely what civic awareness is about. If the issuing of the property law symbolizes the justification for a start to a harmonious existence between private property and “public property”, then the rise of “walks” represents aspirations to ideals of private interest, and symbolizes a step toward the awakening of civic awareness.
A sentiment echoed by Tianya blogger Huazi in a short Jan. 14 post, since deleted, ‘City residents who are allowed to march are lucky’:
Regardless of how it turns out, that the government allowed city residents to walk is in itself already a humongous step forward. Societies that can “walk” are the harmonious ones……
On that, indie blogger ‘The ups and downs’ writes:
In anticipation of that next big protest, MSN Live Spaces blogger Smart Mojo gives a few safety tips:
4。如果JC抓人，带摄像拍照设备的请拍照保留证据，同时保护好证据，不要被JC没收删除。大家要齐喊“谢谢JC同志！”这样JC会懵一下 我们也有机会, 把人拉回来。不要直接和警察打起来！切记！
Chinese new year is almost here. Everyone needs to keep safe! Do your best to spread this around.
1. When out strolling and practicing your voice, do NOT clash with police either verbally or in person;
2. If the police start driving people away, don't be impulsive, just go with the flow;
3. If the people around you start getting impulsive, if you can confirm it's someone from your community, then get people to hold him down; if nobody recognizes him, ignore him, stay away from him, let him do his own thing;
4. If the police start arresting people, those with cameras please start taking photos to keep as evidence, and at the same time protect that evidence, don't let the police confiscate or erase it. Get everyone to yell, “Thank you Comrade Officer!” This will baffle the officer a little, giving you the opportunity to get your people back. Do not go straight to hitting the police. Remember that!
5. In the off-chance that you do get arrested and taken away, do not engage in a oral confrontation with the police. Please try and keep as quiet as possible, make sure you understand the statement before you sign it, and refuse to sign if doing so is detrimental to you. People will do everything in their power to rescue you!
On January 11, veteran Bullog blogger Beifeng received a tip, a very long piece of citizen reporting actually, from a source who just happened to pass by a smallish protest, but one still going down the middle of the street, this time in Guangzhou in the south:
When I got back to the intersection, I saw a group of people (around 100) coming along Linjiang Dadao from the east heading west in the direction of Guangzhou Dadao. Just then there was a red light, so I stood on the south side of Linjiang Dadao waiting for it to go green. The crowd was coming closer, and I was able to see a bit clearer. A group of city residents, banging gongs and striking drums, as well as two white banners with very visible black lettering. I'm quite shortsighted, though, so I couldn't see exactly what was written, something about a park or something.
When the light turned green, I ran to the edge of the crowd. At this time, they'd already started heading west. I tagged along for about 100 meters. That was when I could see, the two white banners had “Appeal to the government to act in good faith” and “Give us back our city land”. Within the procession there were a lot of seniors and children, as well as little babies too young to walk being carried by their parents. From the building on the west side of the intersection, people pressed up against the railings to take pictures or call out in support. And there seemed to be a lot of women, my rough estimate would be at least more than half.
I asked one young fella in the group what was going on. He told me to look at the banners and then I'd know, that the government had taken land marked out for the building of an inner-city garden, and sold it to a developer, who was preparing to use it to build apartment towers. At this point the procession doubled back, and started heading back east to the intersection, stopping at the corner. At the building on the west side of the street, dozens of people had come out and were taking photos from the sides and calling out to them in support. Some kids and younger people started climbing over, or gathered around to watch, and some even joined in.
The writer goes on to list the turns and course of the procession, describing how the protesters for the most part chose to bang the drums and gongs over chanting slogans; also that the police were very civil, and when at one point some young guys came close to brushing with the cops, some girls pulled them back in. Later, larger banners are pulled out, the march stops to thanks the cops and, just before 11 pm, heads back to the housing community, Nanguo Garden.
The writer tags along, learning more about the homeowners’ situation, that all the background information is available in the lobby of Nanguo Garden tower B1, hearing arguments that this piece of land they're fighting for had been put aside for a city park, that senior citizens are leading the movement and need younger residents to get involved and chip in, that the new apartment towers, at 50 floors high, will be twice the height of theirs, and that city bylaws forbid construction of buildings of that height so close to the river.
S/he also learns that a series of protests the weekend before had been successful in halting construction, but that no journalists had shown up to cover it, responding to the leader of the group telling her all this that the reason is most likely due to most journalists having weekends off. By 11:10pm, everyone had peacefully gone home. One other strategy the writer learns that the protesters are using, is after having set up two homeowner hotlines (13724812234 and 13724811557), the cellphones themselves are being rotated between different organizers, lest any individuals be singled out as spokespeople for the ground and….
Some scrounging around local homeowner forums does manage to bring up a few mentions of the situation; at the GZ.focus.cn bbs, user ‘Linjiang Wind’ asks for feedback on their approach of holding protests on fixed dates, starting discussion off with:
Linjiang Wind doesn't get much response, although one anonymous user needs to get together with the writer of Beifeng's piece: