CHINA

Protesting, the 'harmonious' way

The people of Naples are not the only ones living under a pile of garbage. But, in Beijing, they have a novel way of expressing their discontent over a similar problem. Read on...

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The people of Naples are not the only ones living under a pile of garbage. In Beijing they have a novel way of expressing their discontent over a similar problem.

Residents of the Changying neighborhood have protested for years against the pollution and sickening stink emanating from a waste-treatment plant.

They have exhausted all legal avenues – petitions and complaints before tribunals – to force the local authorities to act. Nothing has worked: the plant continues to burn waste, spewing toxins into the air and emitting nauseating fumes, and the authorities continue to construct housing close to the factory.

So the inhabitants of Changying decided to try a demonstration. In China, however, it is necessary to submit a request at the local police station to obtain permission for a street march.

Amateur photographs of the demonstration

The protest bore fruit: on September 4, the local authorities apologized to the residents and announced that the waste-reception center would be covered and equipment to remove air pollutants put in place. They promised an improvement within 20 days.

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We took action, in a “harmonious” fashion

Blogger Mozhixu published the story of a protester who took part in a demonstration, Beijing-style on August 30.

When we arrived, there weren’t many people, but they all wore masks. They sang the national anthem. Then the march, very orderly, turned into North Chaoyang street. On the way, we smelled powerful odours coming from the factory plant.

“We stopped at the junction of Chaoyang and Dongwei streets, and started to block the trucks that transport the waste. We stopped eight in all. There were more and more people, but also more and more police.

“The police demanded that we not obstruct the transportation, so we crossed to the other side of the street.

“Finally, all went well. We took action, in a “harmonious” fashion – [a reference to the policy of a ‘harmonious society’ launched by the President, Hu Jintao.] Only one banner created problems, but I cannot say more for fear of using ‘sensitive’ words.”