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China: This week's mass incidents

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:

Tianya blogger '17 years of schooling’ writes:

这两天,湖北十堰市城区下雪,而公交竟然停运了!
强烈谴责公交公司的变相罢工!
2003年,十堰市根据市场经济的要求,大胆改革,把公交公司卖给极有创新魄力的私人老板,在全国首创应该由政 府投入的公交建设转移到私人老板操作。

We've had heavy snow here in Shiyan, Hubei, these last two days, and the buses have actually stopped running!
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.

当时的报道说:“政府也意识到,'无利不起早'的私人资本特性”,因此,公交票价理所当然由1元提高到1.5元。一时间,城区的出租车和中巴的生意红红火火,因为同样为了赚钱,中巴车主深知市民收入有限,又没有享受公车的特权,除非单位贴补,是出不起多要的5角钱的,仍然1元钱。当然就被迫不坐公交车了。
经过一段时间的博弈,公交车被迫降为1元钱。
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!

Reports at the time read: “the government has realized the ‘where there's money to be made’ nature of private capital, and then, sure enough, the price of bus tickets went from 1 yuan to 1.5 yuan. For a while, the city's taxis and minibuses saw business get red-hot; minibus owners knew passengers’ incomes are limited, and unless their workplaces compensated for the difference, they wouldn't pay the extra 50 cents to take a city bus, and so of course the minibus price stayed at 1 yuan.
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!

这两天,湖北十堰市城区下雪,而公交竟然停运了!  
天涯的网友评评理:老板不发财,凭什么买下公交公司?

These two days, Shiyan, Hubei, has seen heavy snowfall, and buses have actually stopped running!
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:

试问全国有几个城市的公共交通卖给私营业主????????!!!!!!!!!

May I just ask: how many cities in the country could there be that sell their public transportation utilities to private owners???????!!!!!!!

Writing back on Monday, Sohu blogger Moon-Wind:

12日晚十堰公交开始罢工。至14日晨,罢工仍在继续。
我想探讨的是:罢工有用吗?
因为大家各为自己利益所思考,孰是孰非,暂且不论。如果真是像罢工方所说,因为官商勾结,罢工必然解决不了问题。要知道十堰这个地方是官员保险箱,还没有出现过哪个官员被严惩的事件。大家也可以从前不久审结的案子中看出个端倪。

现在问题是:对于利益的获得,难道只有罢工这一个途径可走吗?
1、工人工作,服务对象是大众。长时间的罢工,老百姓会怎么看?
2、具体到公交而言,大家从巴士涨价和的士不打表也可以看出来。除非所有的交通方式都罢工。可是,这个目标实现得了吗?

On the evening of the 12th, buses in Shiyan went on strike. As of the 14th, the strike was still on.
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?

One netizen sent this in as a news tip to QQ on the 13th:

湖北省十堰市公交公司大罢工
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

Shiyan, Hubei Province, the city's bus company has gone on major strike.
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’:

不知情的人们在车站跺着脚,望眼欲穿的期待着公交车的出现,可终于、等来的却是涨价了的中巴和的士。

People not in the loop stand at the bus stops stamping their feet, gazing longingly in anticipation that a bus will appear. But in the end, all that shows up is a minibus or taxi with raised prices.

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’:

去年,厦门人上街散了一小伙步,于是就成了媒体的“年度人物”。阿拉上海人觉得不服气,也相约上海市政府门前的人民广场来“散步”。累了,没关系,到不远处的南京路步行街上,来个“购物”也不错。据说,在那个城管打死拍照总经理的湖北天门,一些群众也在街上集体“散步”来表达对城·管恶行的不满。
街头“散步”——你不得不佩服民间的智慧。在这个将游·行、示·威依旧视为敏感政治活动的社会,它的发明与创造不能不说是一种伟大的进步。
从自己的私密空间勇敢地走出来,大胆地公开表达自己的真实想法以及利益诉求,将那些打着公共利益旗号的政治谎言揭穿,纵使其原始目的只是私人性的蝇头小利,诸如不让自己的房屋贬值等等,但我们还是应该为这样的举动而喝彩。
走上街头,这样的行为对于现在的我们似乎有点陌生,它只深藏于我们的历史记忆,伴随的是集体的狂热与无意识,甚至还掺杂着鲜血。它在目前的政治语境中依然还是一个不光彩的行为,人们似乎更容易联想到文革式的街头批斗、学生失去理性的政治诉求以及利益受害者的过激抗争。当80后出生的一代人开始越来越习惯于网络上虚拟表达的时候,走上街头就更加离我们越来越远。

Last year, the residents of Xiamen went for a little walk, and went on to become the media's “people of the year”. We Shanghainese don't just take things sitting down either, and we agreed to meet in front of the Shanghai Municipal Government at People's Park to “take a stroll”. We got tired, but no worries, we just stopped a bit into the march at Nanjing Pedestrian Street for a bit of “shopping”. They say that in Tianmen, Hubei where that company executive was beaten to death by chengguan for taking photos, a crowd took to the streets for a “walk” there too, to show their dissatisfaction at the chengguan's despicable behavior.

“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.

我曾经断言,80后这一代人是从没有走上街头的一代人。相比与50、60后们的文革经历、70后在解放思想后的街头政治狂热,80后确实更像是温室里的花朵。从小他们就被教育要好好地待在房间里,不要到处乱跑。街上是充满了危险的,那里有疯狂奔跑的汽车、伤天害理的人贩,甚至还有无恶不作的地痞流氓。于是,他们开始习惯于书桌前的挑灯夜读,或者是电脑屏幕前的熬夜激战,稍微成熟之后,也只是钟情于网上论坛式的匿名式的表达。

离开街头的一代人会缺少什么?

街道是一个绝对的公共空间,它需要在街上的每一位人都要有高度的规则意识,才能维持其基本的秩序。行人、车辆要靠右行走,不能随地乱扔垃圾、吐痰,大小便就更加不允许。在这里你不可能看到无端的谩骂与人生攻击,纵使个人修养再差的人,也努力地使自己保持着良好的形象。
保持自己独立以及正当利益完整的前提下,在最大的情况下与他人和谐相处。仔细想想,这就是公民意识的解读。如果说《物权法》的颁布标志着私人财产开始名正言顺地开始与“公共财产”和谐相处,那么以“散步”为代表的私人利益理想诉求的涌现,则标志着公民意识的进一步觉醒。

I've asserted before, that the post-80s generation is one which has never seen people marching down the street. Compared to the Cultural Revolution experiences of those born in the 50s and 60s and the political fervor on the streets of those with liberated thinking born in the 70s, the post-80s generation really seem just like flowers in a greenhouse. Since they were small, they've been taught how to be good and stay in their rooms, and not to go running around. The streets are full of dangers, with insane drivers tearing around, abominable human traffickers out there, even gangs of thugs who fear nothing and will do anything. So they grew accustomed to spending evenings studying in front of a lamp at a desk, or else nights spent battling each other in front of computer screens and, as they grew up a bit, love for expressing themselves anonymously on internet forums.

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’:

去年,因为市民散步抗议,厦门市政府决定取消污染环境的PX项目。今年,上海磁悬浮列车将要经过的小区居民,也散步抗议噪音和磁污染。这一回,他们能成功吗?

不管结果如何,政府允许市民散步本身就是巨大的进步,可以“散步”的社会是和谐的……

Last year, because the people walked and protested, the Xiamen city government decided to cancel the environmentally pollutive PX project. This year, residents of a neighborhood through which Maglev train tracks were about to be built, also walked and protested the noise and magnetic radiation [sic]. This time, though, will they be able to succeed?

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:

有了厦门人去年的“和谐散步”为经验,中国人民表达不满的方式更加大胆了,这,可是好事啊。中国最大都市上海紧接而来的散步事件,这又意味着什么呢?下一个跟进的城市会是谁呢?上海的领导们正在想着解决办法呢吧。结束又会是怎样呢?他们对于这次的处理更加意味着日后此类事件的处理方向。这次,还会是民意的胜出吗?

With the experience of Xiamen citizens’ “harmonious stroll” last year, the Chinese people's means of expressing dissatisfaction have grown bolder. This, well, it's a good thing! With China's largest city, Shanghai, having been the next to get out and walk, what does that imply? Which city will be next now? Shanghai's leaders must surely be thinking of a way to resolve this. But what will the result be? Their treatment of this must surely indicate the direction similar incidents will take in the near future. Come then, will it still be the will of the people that's victorious though?

In anticipation of that next big protest, MSN Live Spaces blogger Smart Mojo gives a few safety tips:

快过年了大家注意安全!
快过年了,大家要注意安全呀!尽量转告吧
1。散步练声,保持理智,决不要在口头和肢体上与JC发生冲突;
2。如果JC驱赶,不要冲动,沿赶的方向走;
3。如果身边有人冲动,如果能确认是邻居,大家一起按住他;如果大家都不认识,就不要管他,远离他,让他自己去闹;
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!
5。万一不幸被抓走,不要与JC口头冲撞,请尽量保持沉默,看清证词再签字,不利证词不签字。大家会尽一切力量营救!

It's almost Chinese new year, everyone keep safe!
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:

21:20左右,我走到马场路与临江大道交界的丁字路口,听到东面有一阵阵锣鼓声。我以为可能有人在临江大道边排演节目,毕竟快过春节了。而且平时江边也有些人健身、跳舞等等,有时候也有音乐声。我过了路口,走到珠江边,散步七八分钟后,好奇心驱使我往声音传来的方向走去。

回到路口,发现一群人(大约一百多)正从东面,沿着临江大道的北边往西面(即往广州大道方向)进发。这个时候恰好红灯,我只能在临江大道南边等绿灯。人群越来越近,这下看清楚一些了。一群市民敲锣打鼓,还有两个白底黑字的横幅很显眼。我近视很厉害,看不清楚横幅上面写着什么,貌似什么公园之类的。

等到绿灯,我快速到赶到人群变。人群这个时候继续往西面走。我也跟着走了一两百米。这下看清楚了,白色的两个横幅是“呼吁政府诚信”和“还我城市公园”。散步的队伍中老人和孩子很多,还有被父母抱着的不会走路的小BB。而且女性特别多,我粗略估计了一下,应该超过半数。

我问了一个散步队伍中的靓仔,这是怎么回事。他说你看横幅就知道了,政府把本来规划建城市花园的地块,卖给了开发商,开发商要建楼盘。这个时候队伍又折返回来,往东面走回丁字路口,停在路口。路口西面的小区,数十人趴在栏杆上照相或者声援他们,更有一些孩子和年轻人翻越栏杆,或者围观,或者加入散步队伍。

At around 9:20 pm, I was walking toward the corner of Paomachang Lu and Linjiang Dadao when I heard the bangs of gongs and drums. I thought maybe there were people rehearsing a performance off to the side of Linjiang Dadao, it being so close to Chinese new year and all. And here near the river there are usually people exercising or dancing or whatever, and sometimes they have music. I crossed the road, heading toward the Pearl River, and about 7 or 8 minutes later, my curiosity drove me to head back in the direction of where the sounds were coming from.

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:

个人认为组织有些混乱:口号无法整齐,横幅过于简陋,队伍行进参差不齐.总之效果不太好

I personally feel the organization is a little chaotic: the slogans aren't in tandem, the banners are too simple and crude, the procession doesn't stick together, and the overall effect isn't very good.

Linjiang Wind doesn't get much response, although one anonymous user needs to get together with the writer of Beifeng's piece:

为什么几次活动都没有记者收到消息到场,如果G4记者或今日一线跑腿记者到场采访,相信影响力一定会大十倍,而且最近这次活动安排在晚上没有引起更多的公众注意?如果能改变侨鑫的项目,我们举双手赞同,下次活动请在网上发通知,同时发到附近的海滨花园,力讯上筑业主论坛中,让大家一起来构建和谐社区,揭开侨鑫丑恶面目,重建城市花园.

We've had two protests already, so why haven't there been any reporters on the scene? If G4 or other local urban beat television show reporters came and did interviews, I believe that we'd have ten times the influence we do now. Not only that, the last couple protests have been held at night, and don't really attract much attention. If the Kingold group project can be changed, and raise both your hands if you agree, why don't we put notice of the next protest online, at the same time posting it to the forums for nearby Seaview Garden and Lasony UpZone, let everybody come together to construct a harmonious society, expose Kingold's hideous face, and rebuild this city park.

4 comments

  • […] in actions on the ground that corroborate increasing ‘people power’ (see for example here or here or here) , and less on lofty discussions of whether or not there is a ‘new middle […]

  • […] 快过年了,社会治安问题又要开始恶化了,社会矛盾也在开始激化,大家都要注意安全。我们要随时为和谐社会做好准备 ,不能随意恶搞,尤其是搞得这么大发 。 […]

  • […] success of “The Xiamen Experience” has obviously emboldened and inspired citizens living in other parts of China to also engage in solidaristic acts in order to safeguard […]

  • Iamhuman

    People are easily to be provoked by concrete deprivations of their physical interests, but more deep-rooted human right violation is yet to be realized. I don’t like the current totalitarian government at all and hope it dead soon as possible. And this ruling party is definitely ruining itself, no doubt about its end sooner or later. But what I’m worrying is, after a brutal dictatorship has gone, will a more brutal one emerge?

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