Views on the Shifang 什邡 Protests

Plans to build a molybdenum-copper alloy plant in Shifang, Sichuan province, drew large-scale protests from concerned citizens on 2 July, and culminated in a face-off with riot police armed with tear gas. The local authorities’ tough response to the demonstrations was widely criticized on China’s microblogs, where users passed around photos of heavily-armed police clashing with unarmed citizens (many of the photos and posts were deleted by moderators). Two of the leading liberal-leaning bloggers on Sina’s Weibo service, Han Han and Li Chengpeng, wrote posts urging the authorities to try to understand protesters’ fears before dispersing them by force.

In The Liberation of Shifang (3 July 2012), Han Han compared the Chinese people to crawfish, which may be provoked to fight back against attackers but which end up on the dinner table all the same. Arguing that the protests were the result of long-term, pent-up anger and that uncertainty about the plant’s environmental risk was merely the spark, Han advised the authorities to proceed rationally and engage the people on their own level rather than treating the unrest as an epidemic to be stamped out with a concerted show of force. In a subsequent post, The Masters Have Arrived (4 July 2012), Han noted that the protests included the participation of students born in the 1980s and 90s, a generation seen by conventional wisdom as self-centered and hedonistic. He also mused on the imbalance of power that exists between law enforcement and the general public, by which protesters can be sent to jail for getting worked up and physically engaging police officers, while police are rarely punished for stepping over the line and abusing protesters.

Original links: 什邡的释放, 已来的主人翁


In A Peculiar Mission: A Letter to the Leaders of Shifang (3 July 2012), Li Chengpeng described how the village of his youth grew more and more polluted due to industrial pollution, and criticized how short-term thinking and achievement-oriented planning is to blame for GDP-supporting projects that mortgage the future of the country and its people. He highlighted the hugely disproportionate response on the part of the authorities: ‘a minority with ulterior motives attacked government organs with flower pots and water bottles,’ so ‘to take control of the situation, the relevant departments mobilized police equipped with shields, clubs, tear gas and stun grenades.’

Original link: 奇怪的使命——给什邡市各级领导的一封信