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Shifang protests signal hope for change in China: expert

2012/07/04 19:29:54

Shanghai, July 4 (CNA) Environmental protests recently led by young people in Shifang, Sichuan Province that caused the local government to abandon a construction project have spurred hopes for change in undemocratic China, a sociologist in Shanghai said Wednesday.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the sociologist told the CNA that people born after the 1990s played a major role in the demonstrations on Sunday and Monday, when thousands took to the streets to protest against plans to build a copper alloy plant in the city.

"This is a big event in the history of China's social movements. It signals that there is a chance for change as long as you come out," he said.

The campaign deserves the attention of the Chinese government because it shows that "young people have too many ways" to organize social movements, he said, drawing attention to the crucial role the Internet played in the protests.

The organization of civil rights movements has become easier than before thanks to the existence of microblogs, for example, he noted, adding that even official statements by the Shifang government were released via a microblogging site.

Such a development demonstrates that the Chinese government cannot stick to the old ways and continue to control people's thoughts, and should instead work to strengthen its communication with the public, he said.

Han Han, one of China's most well-known bloggers, said the incident in Shifang has changed people's impression of the post-1990 generation, which according to Han has sowed the seeds of change in Chinese society.

(By Cheng Chung-sheng and Y.F. Low)