Mass protests on the rise in 2009: blue book

08:05, December 22, 2009      

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Sit-ins, roadblocks and other forms of mass protest have been more frequent this year due to "people's discontent in the way government policy is implemented," said the 2010 blue book released Monday by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

"During China's economic boom, many problems involving relocation law, industrial reform and land-use still remain unresolved. It has deepened people's discontent," Li Peilin, director of the Sociology Institute of CASS, said at Monday's press conference for the release of the government blue book report, Society of China: Analysis and Forecast 2010.

Although the annual report does not reveal how many mass incidents were reported this year, the number rose from over 10,000 in 1994 to 74,000 in 2004, according to a report by the Outlook Weekly in March of last year.

Li also says such incidents can be classified into two types; "non-direct interest," meaning most participants have no connection with each other nor the organizer and "direct interest," indicating all involved are assembling for a common cause and have vested interest in the outcome.

A recent example of "non-direct interest" assembly is an incident involving thousands who assembled in protest over the mysterious death of a man in a Hubei Province hotel in June. Tu Yuangao, 24, was found dead at the gate of the hotel on June 17.

Although local police announced it a suicide, the family remained unconvinced and displayed Tu's body among a crowd at the hotel gate in protest.

The second type of incident is "direct interest" such as the incident surrounding the manager of Tonghua Iron & Steel in Jilin Province, who was beaten to death by a mob of angry workers reportedly dissatisfied with the restructuring of the company in July.

The workers were facing wage cuts and layoffs as a result of the company's looming makeover stemming from a merger in which Beijing-based Jianlong Heavy Machinery Group would buy a majority stake in Tonghua.

General manager Chen Guojun, installed by Jianlong according to the merger plan, was beaten to death during a 1,000 strong workers' protest on July 24.

However, Yu Jianrong, director of the Institute of Rural Development at CASS who studies trends in social unrest, told the Global Times Monday that it is the conflicts of interest that cause the rise in mass incidents.
"Up to 80-90 percent of these incidents were caused by conflicts of interest between parties involved rather than discontentment with policy administration," Yu explains. "And people are learning to use the power of masses to protect their rights."

According to Yu's research issued in 2007, over 36 percent of mass incidents were initiated by workers attempting to ensure their rights, followed by those initiated by farmers at 35 percent.

"If the government merely solves these mass incidents by simply defining them as 'disturbances of public order,' then this skin-deep harmony is likely to trigger bitter conflict," he said. "Mass incidents should be solved through law."

Source: Global Times
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