China’s Jasmine Revolution a Smiling, Pedestrian Affair
Posted by Author on March 5, 2011
By Matthew Robertson, Epoch Times Staff-
A website claiming to represent China’s homegrown Jasmine Revolution has called on the populace to take to the streets, every Sunday afternoon.
They sign their posts with “Chinese Jasmine Revolution Initiators,” and give regular updates with ultra-specific instructions on locale, protest etiquette, and an evolving political stance.
They say that everyone should simply turn up and walk around, smiling.
The impact such actions may have is ambiguous, say dissidents and observers.
“I see it as a small activity,” said China scholar Perry Link in a phone interview. “Staying on the move prevents police from forcing you to go on the move. I think that’s the reason they walk around. But I don’t feel this is the big question,” he said.
The calls for smiling walkers to take to the streets began on Feb. 28. In their statements the initiators list 41 cities and protest sites—in the city of Lanzhou it’s by the Kentucky Fried Chicken at Dongfanghong Square, for instance. The Internet posts cast a wide net for “all social groups” to walk around together and by doing so “change your country!”
Organizers liberally ridicule the communist leadership and their moribund sloganeering. They say in their recent announcement that the movement should be codenamed the “Three Represents,” which makes fun of the theoretical contribution to Chinese communism of former regime leader Jiang Zemin .
They write that their call comes at “the best period of human rights in Chinese history,” which ridicules statements made by the communist leadership when deflecting criticism of their human rights record.
Dissidents are still not sure what to make of it.
“The situation is pretty complex at the moment,” says Wei Jingsheng, a prominent Chinese dissident now living in Washington, D.C. “A lot of people don’t know, and even we don’t know what this is about. We don’t know if it’s a trap or not.”
Since the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, there have been numerous, uncoordinated calls for protests in China.
Anonymous instructions given on the Internet led on Sunday, Feb. 20, to small gatherings of protesters in major Chinese cities.
Participants were asked to congregate in central areas and chant slogans. These instructions and other details were thought suspicious by some dissidents, who saw the event as an effective means for the CCP to arrest people. A large number of dissidents were arrested before the protests were scheduled to take place, and there were several reports of dissidents being beaten.
While the current calls to simply walk around smiling are unlikely to be a trap, some fear it may trivialize the revolution theme.
“It could be turning a real protest movement into a joke. As soon as the news of [the] Jasmine Revolution came out, the CCP moved extremely quickly,” Wei said. “In the past they’ve turned what was something more serious into something softer, something that can’t be a challenge.”
The website says that the calls to stroll are meant to inspire democratic sentiment, secure the release of high-profile dissidents, return rights to the people, and waste state resources.
Wasting state resources while strolling around smiling is fine, says dissident Tang Baiqiao, but it needs to go further than that.
“We can’t go from demanding the CCP step down into a mere call for reform. We have to be clear about the final purpose of any movement: it’s about getting rid of the CCP. That’s the spirit of the revolution,” Said Tang.
Tang, a longtime democracy activist, is author of “My Two Chinas: The Memoir of a Chinese Counterrevolutionary” and now lives in the United States.
Tang is wary about even the wording. The website the calls are hosted on is molihuaxingdong, literally, “Jasmine Movement.” Though the contents refer interchangeably to a “movement” and a “revolution,” Tang says it’s important to keep it in the latter category. “I don’t oppose them, but we should be clear on the final goal.”
A recent statement on the website makes 10 points. They include that protesters should be civilized, rational, and not yell slogans; that they should spread the news far and wide; and that the younger generation should get involved and use social media to spread the message.
The sixth point advises, “As soon as anyone runs into trouble, everyone should crowd around and yell ‘Stop the thief!’”
They suggested that they would add another time later: 6 p.m. Saturdays, because “under the blanket of darkness the government’s cameras won’t work as well.” The authorities will have to waste money using special police on the weekends, too. This will annoy them.
The 10th point sounds a serious note, “Even though now we are relatively quiet, at the appropriate time we will clearly state our demands.”
For Mr. Link, the key question is whether the Chinese dissident elite can tap into the massive reservoir of societal discontent with the regime: laid off workers, farmers who had their land stolen, and persecuted religious groups. “There’s a lot of inchoate discontent,” Link says—inchoate because “if you organize you get killed.”
“This kind of showing up and smiling in front of the police, I don’t believe is going to rock the big boat. I think there’s a big boat to rock, but I don’t think this is going to rock it,” Link said.
Dissidents and observers will watch carefully. “We can’t clearly judge it at this point,” says Wei. “But this is very interesting. We should watch it closely. Everyone should watch this.”
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This entry was posted on March 5, 2011 at 7:14 pm and is filed under China, Event, Internet, Jasmine Revolution, News, Politics, Social, World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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