If you are wondering why you’ve not really heard much about the call for a “Jasmine Revolution” style protests in the Peoples Republic of China, well there is a reason for that. The Chinese authorities are not waiting around for the protests to grow and become something like Tiananmen Square or Tahrir Square in Egypt.
As I posted about before they have been taking strong steps to crack down on pro-democracy activists for a couple of weeks. They have been preventing text messages from being sent to an entire list and have blocked all websites with key words like Jasmine Revolution.
This combined with flooding the urban areas where the protests were proposed with security forces and actually placing pro-democracy advocate under house arrest and even
disappearing more than one attorney for these groups apparently is not enough for the Communist Government in China
In a move that shows just how worried the “workers paradise” is about its workers getting together to insist on a real voice in the governance of their nation, the Chinese government is now putting restrictions on foreign reporters inside China.
NPR is reporting this morning that the Chinese government is saying that you must have pre-approval to talk to any one in Beijing in advance. Think about that for a second; this means that if you wanted to do a “man on the street” interview about anything even say the weather, you would be in violation.
Already foreign journalists are claiming that they are having their e-mails hacked and that plain clothes police are watching them movements and their apartments. This is the kind of things that the state security apparatus use against home grown militants.
It is pretty clear that the government in China is doing all it can to keep its people from an uprsing as has been seen in the Arab world. Sadly it seems they have learned the lesson of not letting things get started. They are also learning the lesson that any kind of international reporting means, in these days of the internet, that the story will get out, no matter how hard the technological curbs come down.
To me all of these measures seem pro-active. They have been cracking down on activists before any real protests could start. Now they are putting the squeeze on journalists with an eye to making things so hot there that news organizations either pull their staff or the staff feels like they can not take chances to get the story out.
For all that the Olympics and its massive economic engine has, somewhat, rehabilitated the Chinese image in the world, the reality is that it is still very much a totalitarian regime and one where the cracks are starting to show. Corruption is rampant in China. Given the nature of its political system the corruption comes mainly through officials of the Communist Party.
Through the loosening of economic rules there has emerged a large and growing income disparity. There is a huge migrant work force that is trying to leave the countryside and move to the factories of the cities. This combined with a growing exposure to the ideas of democracy through education and the internet has left the Communists holding on to the tigers ears.
The take away from the revolutions in the Arab world seems to be that a failure to harshly and completely crack down on any dissident movement, no matter how peaceful is one that could cost you control of your nation. The Chinese, never being that flexible in the first place are doing all they can to keep a lid on the idea of democracy and political freedom.
As much as I would love to think that the people united will never be defeated, the reality is that China is not an Arab autocracy. The sheer number of the people at the top of the Communist Party keeps them from making the mistakes of a Gaddafi or Ali, and while there are orders of magnitude more people in China than any Arab nation, there is also a multiple security forces who are well paid, well trained and well equipped.
This combined with the unlikelihood of any of the security forces being punished or singled out makes the window for a popular upraising much smaller. One of the conditions that is required for a true upraising is a large percentage of the population being ready to rise.
If the protests in Egypt had only been in Cairo, they probably would not have been enough to topple Mubarak. Until the rebels in Libya managed to capture Benghazi the rest of the nation did not take the uprising as serious.
With a population of 1.4 billion people the numbers of citizens ready to rise against the government in China will need to number in the tens of millions before any such effort can hope to succeed. Given the willingness of the government there to rigidly control the media, both domestic and foreign and to limit the organizing ability of cell phones and social media, they are effectively keep discontent citizens from finding out that they are not alone, or are even in the majority.
As long as that is true, the size of this giant Asian nation will work against the cause of popular uprising. If there can not be millions on the streets of not only the Chinese capital but several of its major cities, there is no chance that the people in the countryside and distant provinces will even know that there are people protesting.
That is the single biggest constraint that will limit reform in China. So, for the sake of those billion plus people living under the iron heel of oppression, keep your ears open for any news out there and do what you can to support the dissemination of that information.
It is said that information wants to be free. If that is true then it is to be devoutly hoped that it allows many, many more humans to hitch a ride to that freedom.
The floor is yours.