Tag Archives: protest

Three great paragraphs on the internet and Chinese 'revolution'

This from Guobin Yang of Barnard College, Columbia University, in The New York Times:

Protest is also increasingly common on the Internet. I recently counted 60 major cases of online activism, ranging from extensive blogging to heavily trafficked forums to petitions, in 2009 and 2010 alone. Yet these protests are reformist, not revolutionary. They are usually local, centering on corrupt government officials and specific injustices against Chinese citizens, and the participants in different movements do not connect with one another, because the government forbids broad-based coalitions for large-scale social movements.

Because of those political limits, protesters express modest and concrete goals rather than demand total change. And the plural nature of Chinese society means that citizens have sometimes conflicting interests, making it difficult to form any overarching oppositional ideology. In other words, the government allows a certain level of local unrest as long as it knows it can keep that activism from spreading.

And while the Internet has revolutionary potential, here too Chinese leaders have a firm grasp of the situation: they understand the power of the Internet much better than their Middle Eastern counterparts, and they regularly restrict access to the Web when they sense that unrest is gaining momentum.

Great column, but this segment just nails what I keep trying to tell people in response to questions about a Middle East/North Africa contagion.

Police-led protests? Satire and the 'Jasmine Revolution' [translation]

Twitter and several online communities lit up last night with talk of gatherings in several cities in China that had apparently been organized online and were given the moniker “Jasmine Revolution.” The people who gathered, according to the reports I’ve seen, were quickly dispersed or arrested by police.

My first note is to caution that this is fundamentally different from the mass mobilizations in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere. These gatherings were comparatively small, and were apparently primarily composed of members of a relatively small online sphere of radical discourse.

My second note is to translate an apparently satirical blog post that I saw first through a listserv posting.* This is a rough translation, but it gets the story across. The post comes with numerous pictures, a few of which after the jump.

The new term was about to start and our teacher sent out a memorization assignment [前赤壁赋/qiancibishu, a work from the Northern Song dynasty that I don’t know anything about]. I tried to do the memorization in a quiet place, but made awful progress. I wondered if it would go better at Wangfujing [a major commercial street in Beijing].

I was just studying in front of McDonalds, and unable to concentrate, I realized several police cars and some police officers had shown up. Then, out of the crowd came a team of people [police] who suddenly dispersed, some standing nearby and others at a distance.

I tried my best to concentrate, but soon there arrived a group of photographers.

Later, more people came and stood at the door of the McDonalds, and quite a few more police showed up. The police presence gradually grew, and the crowd gradually dispersed.

When I left, I noticed that the police at the perimeter had moved closer.

What was happening? I took a few pictures.

(All of these pictures can be downloaded at Picasa)

Why would people stop to watch an unusual number of police? The People’s Police love the people; the people love the People’s Police? [This I believe is a play on a slogan.] When I was taking pictures, someone hit me in the head. How could whoever did this be so audacious as to attack people [renmin] in front of almost 100 police. And how could the People’s Police turn a blind eye?

If you know the truth, please don’t say it. Let people live with their illusions.

Of course, it is possible this was meant as an honest story, but it seems thick with sarcasm to me. The implication here is that the police were somehow complicit in the event. The post is written from the perspective of an innocent, diligent student. The reader is perhaps expected to understand that the beating suffered during the process of taking pictures was at the hands of a plain-clothes police officer.

[UPDATE: A less satirical post is translated at Sinocentric. –Feb 20 23:33:29 PST 2011]

* I’m not sure where this was first posted, but the Picasa name and the blog here seem to match. Those more familiar with Chinese blogs please advise!

More pics after the jump.

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