Protests in Sichuan successfully halt the construction of a factory that would have polluted the region, tallying a success for grassroots movements in China. Hong Kong citizens take to the streets over a new chief executive who they think may be too closely connected with the mainland government.
Top Stories for the week of July 2, 2012 in the People¡¯s Republic of China
Factory construction in Sichuan Province halted after violent protests
On July 3 government officials in Shifang, a city in southwest Sichuan province, announced their decision to cancel plans for a copper alloy plant, after three days of protests by residents.. The protests, which began on July 1, turned violent on July 2 when tens of thousands of protestors gathered around the city government headquarters, and threw bottles and bricks at the headquarters and smashed police cars. At least thirteen people were hospitalized after the police used tear-gas on the crowd. On July 3, the Shifang government released a warning that anyone involved in further protests would be ¡°severely punished.¡± The warning was largely ignored by Shifang residents who gathered outside the local government offices that same evening and again demanded the release of detained student leaders. Despite the government¡¯s assurance that plans for the factory are officially canceled, postings on the popular Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo continued to call for continued protests. (BBC, New York Times, Reuters, July 3)
Inauguration of Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying met with massive protest
Hong Kong citizens took to the streets on July 1 shortly after Chinese President Hu Jintao swore in Leung Chun-ying as the new chief executive for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. According to Hong Kong police, the crowd numbered 55,000 to 65,000 while organizers of the protest put the number at 400,000, making it the third-largest of the annual July 1 protests since Hong Kong¡¯s return to China. Protestors waved banners accusing Mr. Leung of being a ¡°wolf in sheep¡¯s clothing¡± and harboring sympathies for the mainland¡¯s Chinese Communist Party. Many expressed concerns that Mr. Leung will use his position to limit the freedoms and rights Hong Kong enjoys under the ¡°one country, two systems¡± model put in place since Hong Kong returned to China in 1997. Others questioned Mr. Leung¡¯s credibility after reports indicated he owned property with ¡°illegal structures,¡± additions to his house built without notifying the proper authorities or receiving official approval. The swearing-in ceremony, which was conducted in the mainland¡¯s official language of Mandarin rather than Hong Kong¡¯s preferred dialect of Cantonese, was briefly interrupted by an unidentified man, who shouted at President Hu to end one-party rule in China and remember the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. (CNN, New York Times, July 1; BBC, July 2)
Foiled hijacking in Xinjiang leaves two suspects dead, ethnic tensions high
On June 29, an attempted hijacking was foiled by the passengers and crew of a Tianjin Airlines plane. The flight was on its way to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, a remote western province in which tensions between Han Chinese and Muslim Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic minority, have run high due to separatist Uighur movements and ethnic conflicts between the native Uighurs and recent Han settlers. The six hijackers, all of Uighur ethnicity, were taken into custody after the aircraft landed. Two of the suspects were reported dead at the hospital after allegedly sustaining injuries during the in-flight struggle. The attempted hijacking comes just days before the three-year anniversary of the July 2009 riots in Urumqi, in which conflict between Han Chinese and Uighurs resulted in nearly 200 deaths. On July 5, 2012, rights group Amnesty International formally accused the Chinese government of human rights abuse in their response to the 2009 uprising. The Chinese government has labeled Uighur separatists as terrorists, linking them with Islamist militants from nearby Pakistan, while Uighur groups accuse the Chinese government of religious and political persecution. (Reuters, June 29; Associated Press, July 2; Reuters, July 5)
Beijing mayor Guo Jinlong appointed Beijing party boss
Guo Jinlong, a prot¨¦g¨¦ and ally of President Hu, was appointed as the new Beijing Communist Party boss on July 3, marking an important first step in the rare political reshuffle expected to take place this October. The appointment will allow President Hu, who is set to retire from the presidency in early 2013, to retain some power and influence after leaving office. Guo is expected to join the decision-making Politburo during the 18th National Party Congress in October. Prior to becoming mayor of Beijing, Guo served as deputy party chief of Tibet from 1993 to 2000, party chief of the same region from 2000 to 2004, and party chief of Anhui Province from 2004 to 2007. Although he is widely considered a moderate, Guo has come under international scrutiny for his alleged role in persecuting Falung Gong practitioners ahead of the 2008 Olympics. (Business Insider, Reuters, July 3)
Philippines protest China¡¯s actions in South China Sea, deny request for US spy planes
On July 5, the conflict in the South China Sea escalated further as Philippines¡¯ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) launched a formal complaint against China¡¯s recent elevation of the disputed Spratly Islands to the prefectural level of administration. Both the Philippines and China claim the islands, and the action was seen as a largely symbolic gesture intended to solidify Chinese claims. The DFA summoned Ma Keqing, the Chinese ambassador to the Philippines, and delivered a note expressing their displeasure, stating that the establishment of Sansha City in the Spratly Islands violates Philippine sovereignty over the area. The note also criticized China for asking the Philippines to stop making ¡°provocative statements,¡± saying that China has no right to make such requests while it continues making its own inflammatory comments. The formal protest occurs just days after reports leaked on July 2 that the Philippines might ask the United States to deploy spy planes over the South China Sea. Philippine President Benigno Aquino publicly denied the rumors on July 5, pointing out that he only said he ¡°might¡± ask the US for help. (AFP, Economist, Philippine Star, July 5)
Compiled by Emily Calvert
Emily Calvert is studying International Studies and Chinese Language at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She currently works as an intern for the China Program at The Carter Center.