Protest leader helps officials prevent maglev demonstration

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 March, 2008, 12:00am

Shanghai staved off a mass demonstration against a maglev train project yesterday through a combination of police scrutiny and a protest leader's call for people to stay home.

Residents had applied to police to hold a demonstration, nearly two months after a series of protests, but the application was rejected.

Some opponents have voiced suspicion the government is proceeding with the project despite official pledges the city is still sampling public opinion.

A group of nearly 20 volunteers stood outside a community along the proposed route of the train, which runs magnetically suspended above its track, in Minhang district to stop people gathering and to inform residents of the cancelled protest using a loud-hailer.

'Today's protest has been legally stopped. Please don't gather here,' said a recorded announcement broadcast repeatedly.

Plainclothes police kept careful watch nearby and officers questioned one foreign journalist at the scene. One woman who began shouting slogans was whisked away by her companions.

Lu Guanfeng , a self-proclaimed leader of the protest movement, said the goal was to reassure the government that residents could keep public order. 'We want to show the government that we can organise,' he said.

His tactics, however, have generated controversy, especially among those residents advocating a tougher line towards the government.

In late December, Shanghai unveiled a revised plan for extension of the maglev from a metro station in Pudong district to the World Expo site, South railway station and Hongqiao airport, which is used mainly for domestic flights.

The announcement galvanised residents against the project and the government claims it has halted construction to consult residents.