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[liberationtech] China Jasmine Revolution

feng37 dxzine at gmail.com
Sun Feb 20 04:17:10 PST 2011


Thanks, will do. Personally I find it more interesting that so many people
were willing to entertain the possibility, however slight, that what
happened in Tunisia (or Egypt) could conceivably take place in China. Hope,
not belief, so I say jarring in response to the tone of the post from the
headline down, how the author notes that the protests were nipped in the bud
through arrests and aggressive censorship and then finds the Beijing protest
turnout 'ridiculous', as if that were the fault of those who showed up.

In fact, comments yesterday from Stainless Steel Mouse (@liudimouse) and Mo
Zhixu (@mozhixu) and others already sought to base today's outcome on its
'performance art' aspect. Contrary to apparent assumptions in this post
below, discussions on Twitter bore little expectation that a large-scale
revolution would be born today in China. There were a number of comments
directly mentioning China's massive 'stability office' budget, as well as
questions regarding how much police mobilization today would end up costing
taxpayers.

As for the motivation of the protests, I wouldn't call it a foregone
conclusion that demands for greater freedom and transparency cannot find
popular support in China, suppression or not. There also seems to be an
underlying assumption in the post that it is absurd that such a small and
vulnerable group would put themselves at such great risk. OK, strictly
speaking, but doesn't reflect what I saw of debates on Twitter yesterday and
today.

The risks in using Twitter to be transparent in spreading information like
the locations and time of this protest and others must seem to be an
acceptable trade-off in exchange for relatively unfettered access to
uncensored discussions with like-minded people, and lack of a better
alternative. Perhaps fortunately, on the lowest common denominator side, one
of the most popular Twitter clients in China 'sensitive keyword' (
https://tuite.im/) was blocked yesterday. I say fortunately because little
is known about who developed or maintains it, who has access to users'
passwords, etc.

On Sun, Feb 20, 2011 at 6:33 PM, Yosem Companys <companys at stanford.edu>wrote:

> Thanks for sharing, Feng.  We'd love to hear your perspective.  Thanks.
>
> PS  Please make sure you're using Tor to anonymize your net access.
>
>
> On Sun, Feb 20, 2011 at 2:29 AM, feng37 <dxzine at gmail.com> wrote:
>
>> Hi, newcomer to the list (@feng37 on Twitter). Thanks for sharing, it's
>> quite jarring to see this kind of triumphalism over the fact that the
>> protests were effectively squashed.
>>
>> On Sun, Feb 20, 2011 at 4:58 PM, Yosem Companys <companys at stanford.edu>wrote:
>>
>>>  The Revolution That Wasn’t
>>> February 20, 2011
>>> By C. Custer <http://chinageeks.org/author/custerc/>
>>>
>>> http://chinageeks.org/2011/02/the-revolution-that-wasnt/
>>>
>>> <http://chinageeks.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/copsarrive.jpg>Late
>>> last night, I noticed that calls for large protests in several major Chinese
>>> cities were circulating on Twitter. Using the hashtag #cn220, users were
>>> reposting information from the overseas Chinese website Boxun, where an
>>> anonymous user had called for a Chinese “Jasmine Revolution.” This morning,
>>> those reports were mixed with reports that police and the military had
>>> already begun to form up in the locations designated for protest around the
>>> country. Naturally, I decided it would be a good idea to grab a camera and
>>> head to the Wangfujing area, where Beijing’s protest was supposed to happen.
>>>
>>> I should note that I didn’t actually expect to find much. This news was
>>> being passed around almost exclusively on websites blocked in China, and
>>> many of the people making tweets seemed to be making them from outside
>>> China. There were people announcing that China’s jasmine revolution had
>>> begun at 11 in the morning, three hours before the protests were even
>>> supposed to start. But very few Chinese people had even heard about it, and
>>> many of the Chinese twitter users I follow said they had already been
>>> threatened, detained, or otherwise instructed not to go by police or Party
>>> authorities.
>>>
>>> <http://chinageeks.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/protest1.jpg>When we
>>> arrived, around 1:40, there was already a small group of people clustered
>>> around the entrance to McDonalds, the area designated online as the center
>>> of the protest. Most of them were carrying expensive photo or video cameras,
>>> and it was clear that a good percentage of the crowd was journalists.
>>>
>>> I met up with a couple foreign correspondents I happen to know who had
>>> arrived slightly before me. We joked for a little whole about the
>>> “revolutionary” atmosphere, or lack thereof, and the ridiculousness of the
>>> growing crowd of people, photographing itself. Of course, we were also
>>> participants.
>>>
>>> <http://chinageeks.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/bigcrowd.jpg>A little
>>> after 2pm, the crowd reached its largest, perhaps two or three hundred
>>> people, although there were people coming and leaving all the time because
>>> Wangfujing is naturally a fairly busy place. Aside from one moment, where we
>>> could see a bouquet of flowers fly above the heads of the center of the
>>> crowd–perhaps they were jasmine flowers?–I saw nothing at any point that
>>> could be considered protesting. No one shouted slogans, no one held signs,
>>> it was just a group of people standing around photographing each other.
>>>
>>> Of course, the crowd drew an increasingly heavy police presence, and they
>>> herded people around the area for more than an hour before managing to more
>>> or less clear the place out. At one point, they drove everyone from in front
>>> of the McDonalds, so the crowd moved along the building’s side, blocking the
>>> road there, at which point the police herded everyone back in front of the
>>> McDonalds.
>>>
>>> <http://chinageeks.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/morecops.jpg>For the
>>> most part, the police showed surprising restraint, at least for Chinese
>>> cops. I saw no incidents of violence, although I did overhear an argument
>>> between a citizen and a police officer who had confiscated the man’s cell
>>> phone, and I did personally get into a shouting match with a police officer
>>> who shoved me. There were other reports of roughhousing, but nothing more
>>> than a bit of shoving and pushing.
>>>
>>> After an hour or so, we left. There were still some people hanging
>>> around, but it was clear that everyone was waiting to see what would happen
>>> and no one was going to actually do anything. Even the police were getting
>>> bored. As we left, we passed a large group of them and overheard their
>>> commander say “Back to normal!” As we walked down the stairs and into the
>>> subway station, they piled into their vans and began to drive away.
>>>
>>> <http://chinageeks.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/crowd1.jpg>It’s clear
>>> that if change will come to China, it will come from within. A revolution
>>> cannot be hoped or tweeted into existence by overseas Chinese, or
>>> overzealous Twitter fans drunk off their so-called victories in North
>>> Africa.
>>>
>>> As a side note, I continue to marvel at the Beijing police’s ability to
>>> take nothing and turn it into an incident. Had they not come out in such
>>> large numbers and not tried to force people to leave, I suspect this would
>>> have been an even smaller “protest”.
>>>
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>>
>>
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