Friday, December 31, 2004

Popular unrest in the leading people's paradise

For the Chinese masses, an increasingly short fuse:
"Onlookers spread word that a senior official had abused a helpless porter. By nightfall, tens of thousands of people had swarmed Wanzhou's central square, where they toppled official vehicles, pummeled police officers and torched City Hall."

Just another day in the People's Republic of China according to this article from the International Herald Tribune online version. According to official statistics reported in the IHT, there were nearly 60,000 such incidents in 2003, although most were smaller. The 2003 figure was 15 percent higher than the year before.

Here's a description of another recent incident:
"In November, up to 100,000 farmers in Sichuan Province, frustrated by months of fruitless appeals against a dam project that claimed their land, seized Hanyuan County government offices and barred work on the dam site for days. It took 10,000 paramilitary troops to quell the unrest."

There are a number of others described in the article including one where police beat to death a suspect in a bicycle robbery and another where rioters killed two police officers over a traffic dispute. Maybe the Chinese Communist Party has good reason to be paranoid.

This sort of boiling discontent provides an important clue, I think to the seeming excessive zeal in suppressing some forms of internet activity, Falun Gong, and unlicensed Christian churches. Most of these incidents are uncoordinated, local eruptions which blow over quickly. Any unofficial line of communication that runs from one end of the country to the other poses the danger of coordinated uprisings across the country which could overwhelm the ability of authorities to restore control promptly.


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