As China’s youth surged forward to protest the plan to build a molybdenum copper plant in Shifang, Sichuan Province, famous Chinese blogger and youth leader Han Han has weighed in. Although Han has previously expressed public doubts both about online protesters and the future of China, Han struck a more optimistic tone in a July 4 post on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter. Below is the entire post, translated by Tea Leaf Nation.
The Masters Who Have Already Come
Today I’ve learned a lot of information about Shifang, true and false, and spent quite some time trying to discern the truth. But what is basically certain is that Shifang is having hard times, everyone has been coming to help, and the post-90s [participants; i.e. those born on or after 1990] are amazing. Last night, many Shifang citizens stood at the gates of the Shifang government and demanded the government release the young students. Student groups from the Guanghan (广汉) area were there in support, because of the students arrested many were from Guanghan. Other information suggested that the origins of the Shifang protests were because some post-90s students were petitioning at the government gates.
The good thing is that the government ultimately did release the students, only continuing to hold six other people. Many people have said that just as the Wenchuan (汶川) earthquake changed people’s view of the post-80s generation, Shifang has made may people change their views of the post-90s generation.
Well, we can’t call the post-90s generation “out of the mainstream” just because they wear afros [literally “exploded” head, or (爆炸头)]. Compared with the flash bombs used by police against their own citizens, hairstyle is nothing. This is also called a “flash bang,” something young men usually only see when they are playing Counterstrike on their computers. But now we’ve all seen the real thing. Eye-opening. Yet, if the local government is using explosives against its own citizens, that in fact already proves they are a tyranny. These bright flashes may make observers dizzy for a few minutes, but it can’t cover the government’s own excesses. You’d think they were shooting “Men in Black 4″, where common people forget everything that’s happened after one bright flash. But in fact, every flash is just fixing one moment in time, recording it for history. You can’t wipe it out.
If citizen conduct crossed the line, and then they were held by police and received punishment under the law, I would not have any complaints; but when the police cross the line, using anti-crime weapons against their own citizens, shouldn’t the police have to apologize? We can see from the Weibo tweets sent out by the Shifang government that its words are pedantic, its tone harsh, not apologetic in the slightest. The government official sounds like an emperor offering his people amnesty, even calling out slogans like “determinedly protect the legal rights of the masses, determinedly protect social stability and harmony.” These two phrases are like singing while playing the harmonica–they can’t both be accomplished at once.
Although I’ve already criticized the “Lively Shifang” official Weibo account once, I’d like to say it’s shown progress. Although the account is frigid, even prudish, it does describe the developments of these hormone-addled youngsters and does so without lying. In today’s China, that is already rare. It also does make use of Weibo, which is better than authorities trying desperately to be hip by using colloquial language. Every step in the right direction should be applauded. And now to continue the criticism.
Returning to the post-90s students; they deserve to be praised, but there are also some things they need to reflect on. Looking at one picture, I discovered a newborn with light injuries, who looked like an infant. At first, as the father of a one-year-old girl, I was enraged at the military police, even writing an essay called “Venting About Shifang” (什邡的释放). But today I calmed down and thought about it again–what were parents doing taking that child out into the streets anyway?
You have to take care of your family. This isn’t a fair, or a party, this is a riot; please avoid bringing old people and young people out as much as possible, because everything we do is for our children. I can eat gutter oil, but I won’t let my daughter eat it. I can breathe polluted air, but I won’t let my daughter breathe it. I can live through XX, but I want my daughter to live through the opposite of XX. I used to think that post-80s and post-90s were generations to be sacrificed.
But now I think, perhaps we ourselves can realize the dream of being parents. These people are the masters of tomorrow, and now, they’ve already arrived. The world is yours, and it’s ours, but at it’s root it’s theirs. The Shifang government officials are our fathers’ generation; they need to look upon these post-80s and post-90s [youth] and make some changes. I know you all have already made many concessions and compromises, let’s finish making something good together.
Some people say that the Shifang incident makes for good essays because it’s a political game, and so forth. I believe that’s true, but I don’t care. As long as I have the right to speak for one day, I’ll call for democracy and protest for my rights. Nothing is more deserving of empathy than someone petitioning in order to survive in our environment. In an improving country moving towards democracy, we stand up, walk out, have a seat. It’s not because of a bunch of empty words. Perhaps it’s just because of one issue, one person, one tree, one factory. Perhaps it relates to us, perhaps not. No matter how bad Shifang’s pollution gets, it will never float over to Shanghai. But I know that we–each of us sitting before our computer–will eventually encounter the day when we too need the understanding and support of our far-away friends.
[Thanks to Fleur and Jan Kaesebier for assistance with translation.]