Xiamen Demonstrations; First Step or One Off?

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A protest against a planned chemical plant in Xiamen on June 1st would have been unremarkable anywhere else. It is exactly the kind of not-in-my-backyard issue that rouses up even the most complacent citizens around the world. But the fact that it took place in China after a campaign of protest on the web and through SMS messages, is pretty amazing. Danwei and Global Voices do their usual excellent job of rounding up what’s going on. Our favorite citizen blogger Zuola reported live from the scene including photos. I particularly like the shot of the protest sign that cheekily takes Sun yat sen’s three principles (people’s livelihood, democracy, human rights) and adds Hu Jintao’s favorite slogan, “harmonious society” (民生民主民权和谐). Critical now is how the authorities react, particularly if the protests continue, as some people seem to think they will. Very tricky. One the one hand they don’t want to be too harsh, for obvious reasons. On the other hand they don’t want to encourage people to do this sort of thing regularly, for equally obvious reasons. As China changes and more of these sorts of situations occur, how the government handles events like this will do much to just how harmonious a society develops.