Mainland violence may be brewing
Recently, a rowdy protest in Sichuan province caused the authorities to back down over their plans to build a billion-dollar chemical plant in the area.
The victory of local people is a big victory for people's rights on the mainland. It's rare to see officials give in to people's demands in the case of such a profitable project. The incident not only highlights the public's eagerness to have their say, but it also shows the government is more receptive to people's opinions. That indicates more openness in debate on the mainland.
But does that mean the mainland's system is becoming more democratic? Actually, not at all. Beneath the surface, there is an ongoing, often violent, conflict between people and officials. With a surge in the number of protests, people are becoming bolder and more violent. One of these days the government might retaliate with deadly force to safeguard its authority. Let's not forget what happened in 1989 at Tiananmen Square.
Eric Ho Chor-ting, STFA Tam Pak Yu College
From the Editor
Thank you for your e-mail, Eric. It is easy to become afraid of the potential for explosive violence on the mainland, and you raise some strong points. However, what is the alternative? Once people have a taste of freedom it is very difficult to get them to forget it.
It is possible to keep the peace with a heavy military presence while rolling back individual freedoms. We have seen Beijing take such measures in Tibet and Xinjiang . But this is a short-term solution and can result in a stronger public backlash.
One of the ways to mitigate these tensions is to ensure there is as little disparity between rich and poor as possible. However, we can see that Beijing is not doing enough to bridge the wealth gap.