Sources reported last week that, although Chinese officials had named three Beijing parks as "protest zones" for use during the Olympics, surprisingly no protests were staged in any of them.
The Xinhua news agency said that 77 applications to demonstrate in the parks had been received. Of those, 74 were "withdrawn" because the problems noted in the applications had been "properly addressed by relevant authorities or departments through consultations." Two were "suspended" because "procedures were incomplete," and the remaining application was denied. Presumably the government can now claim that no more than 1.2% of all protest applications were denied, a remarkable 98.8% non-denial rate.
It shows the system is working, said the vice-president of the Beijing’s Olympic organizing committee when asked about the numbers. "I’m glad to hear that over 70 protest issues have been solved through consultation [and] dialogue," he said. "This is a part of Chinese culture."
Wu Dianyuan and Wang Xiuying had their protest issue solved when they were consulted by police, who noted during the dialogue that the two women had been sentenced to "re-education through labor" for applying to protest in the first place. The two malcontents had wanted to complain about their home being seized, with little compensation, for redevelopment purposes. Police apparently told the women that their sentence would be suspended as long as they stayed home and didn’t keep trying to protest, and it is likely they chose that option since both are in their late 70s and walk with canes, and Ms. Wang is blind in one eye. It probably wouldn’t take much labor to re-educate those two, but they were sentenced to a year of it just in case.
A number of foreign activists (including several Americans) did manage to protest briefly before vigilant Chinese security officials, likely noticing that procedures were incomplete, arrested and deported them.
Some cynics seem to believe that there may be another explanation, like repression, for the lack of any actual demonstrations in the protest parks. Those people likely have a standing invitation to come down to the station and have the matter properly addressed by the relevant authorities.
Link: The Economist
Link: New York Times (and an editorial)