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China: ‘Violent’ Pipeline Protest in Qidong

On Saturday 28 July 2012, tens of thousand of protesters surrounded the local government building in Qidong city in China's Jiansu province, to protest against the construction of a pipeline, which would channel wastewater from a Japanese owned paper mill into the sea.

Some protesters broke into the building compound and in response, a number of public opinion makers from the Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo condemned them for using violence. Similar accusations were also made last month during the Shifang protest against the construction of a molybdenum copper plant, which helped justify the government's crackdown there the following day. Banned from Sina Weibo, Chinese dissidents used Twitter to criticize public opinion leaders for ignoring the political reality in China.

A Twitter user bridged photos from Weibo to show the difference between the scale of violence used by the State and by the Qidong protesters.

A Twitter user bridged photos from Weibo to show the difference between the scale of violence used by the State and by the Qidong protesters.

Li Kaifu, former Google president in China used [zh] the Taiwan 2006 protest experience to deliver his idea of peaceful demonstration via Weibo:

【箭在弦上而不发的勇气】2006年,当台湾100万红衫军包围陈水扁政府时,总指挥施明德坚持不能冲进去,不可以流血。他认为不能用目的美化手段。原本的正义之军,如果越轨,将成为千古罪人。他说:“箭在弦上,不得不发而能不发,需要更大的勇气和智慧。” 希望在江苏某条街上,有人能看到这条微博。

[The courage to stop a loaded arrow] Back in 2006, a million protesters dressed in red surrounded the Chen Shuibian government in Taiwan, the leader Si Mingde insisted that they should not crush into the building and no blood should be shed. He did not romanticize the means [the use of force]. If the protesters took the wrong path, an army of justice would become sinners in history. He said: “An arrow is loaded and is ready to take the shot, it takes more courage and wisdom to unload it then letting it go off.” I wish people from Jiansu would see this.

In the comments section, many netizens have wisely pointed out the differences between the political systems in Taiwan and mainland China:

布吉-moxie:李先生,至少得清楚两地的区别吧,一个民主,一个独裁。犹太人能跟希特勒谈条件吗?百姓确实不愿意必须流血才获得对话的资格,但被逼的无路可走之时,也会有“我以我血荐轩辕”的勇气!

布吉-moxie:Mr Li, at least you have to distinguish the difference between the political systems in the two regions, one is democratic, one is authoritative. Could the Jews have negotiated with Hitler? Of course ordinary people don't want to shed blood, but when there is no other way out, they are brave enough to sacrifice themselves for a greater cause.

满怀希望满怀感激:小李啊,这条你说错了。大陆维权民众和台湾红衫军本质不同。台湾红衫军是在一个民主、有序的社会里追求清廉与正义;大陆维权民众是在一个独裁、专制的社会里苦求生存的权力!为什么启东人要上街,因为污染项目会祸及他们自己的子孙,而不是你的!你说箭在弦上而不发,是因为屠刀,不是架在你得脖子上。

满怀希望满怀感激:You are wrong. People in mainland Chinese are different from the Taiwanese red shirt protesters. They are under a democratic, orderly system aspiring for justice and clean governance. The Chinese counterparts are under a despotic, authoritative system, struggling for their survival. Why did the Qidong people take to the streets? Pollution [from the pipeline] will affect their lives and their children. You may well say that it is courageous to unload the arrow, because no one is pointing the knife to your neck!

Li's comment is echoed [zh] by his colleague Wang Jianshuo, who is a former Microsoft employee in China:

看到今天事态发展,相当痛心。大家越界了,严重的越界了,开了个不好的头,不象厦门等地的理智。用暴力获取自己要的东西,会使用暴力上瘾。别人的错误不是自己的错误的理由。目的正确永远不能证明过程的正确。如果用现有的思维继续前行更远,中国可能进入下一个可怕的暴力为王的轮回。

It is heart breaking to see what's going on today. People have crossed the line too far. This is a bad beginning, unlike the Xiamen rally [note: protest in 2006 against the construction of a chemical factory]. People would get addicted to the use of violence. Don't justify your wrongs with others’ wrongs. While your cause is right, the means can be wrong. If such rationalisation continues to spread, China will enter a cycle of violence.

This YouTube video produced by Boxun uploaded by CleosThoughts looks at the cycle of violence from another the perspective, showing how the police beat up the protestors:

Isaac Mao on Twitter points out [zh]  that without a mechanism for genuine negotiation, mob behavior is inevitable:

Mobs为什么难以控制其走向呢?参与其中的人也说不清楚,因为事态会在相当狭小的时空相互作用,迅速反应,没有单个人可以预测或左右其结果。所以如果聚众有诉求,最好的方式当然还是建立集体诉求机制(Assembly),显示力量后仍然要谈判和妥协,否则于事无补

Mobs cannot be controlled. Even the participants could not tell how things happened. So many people were gathered in such a small area, interacting and reacting to one and other. No one can predict the outcome. Unless there is a mechanism for dialogue with the authorities through public assembly and permission for representatives to carry on negotiating with the government. No one can take hold of the situation.

The majority of the demonstrators were very peaceful; YouTube user Free More News captured the mass protest on video:

Artist-activist is very angry at [zh] how the public intellectuals channelled the discussion:

暴力如何开始?权力如何获得?利益如何分配?真相如何掩盖?对话如何终止?权利怎样丧失?这一切一切都不算暴力,只有当被伤害者发出无奈绝望的吼声时,你才认为暴力出现么?

How does violence start? How is authority established? How is interest distributed? How is the truth covered up? How does the conversation end? How does one lose his/her rights? You don't count these as violence and only when the victims make their desperate cries, then you can see violence.

Twitter user @oldwine questions [zh] the integrity of the public opinion leaders via Weibo:

启东人们给对手打了个措手不及,不少人就感恩党国多么的仁慈宽厚,且大力鼓吹反对暴民暴力.好了,现在党国回过神了,大规模驱逐抓捕势在必行,他们又说过头了.这样一种以围观心态的墙头草,说白了就是对政权邪恶本质的漠视和回避,根本上就是奴才和帮凶.

People in Qidong launched a successful ambush. Immediately so many people stepped out to thank the party for being kind and merciful, advocating against the rioters and the use of violence. Now that the Party state is ready to crackdown on the protest, then they would come out and say, the authorities are over-reacting. They are like grass growing on top of the wall, ready to move with the wind. They just want to avoid commenting on the essence of the evil political system and are conspiring to the current situation.

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