From where we sit and judging by the videos we’ve seen, the situation in Shifang, Sichuan yesterday looked a lot like a riot that was trying to happen but never materialized. In the above, people stand around while tear gas goes off around them. In the second video, which appears after the jump (along with the Youku version of the above), the title tells us that it was the appearance of riot police that set off the previously docile (though admittedly large) crowd, setting them running (along with traffic cops, funny enough) toward the armored men. We imagine the tear gas canisters, when they began to go off, didn’t help matters.
China Digital Times has provided a compendium of information from English-language sources covering this incident, which began when locals gathered to publicly complain about plans to build a molybdenum copper plant. Via Wall Street Journal:
“Save our homes and environment for the next generation,” read one protest banner, according to a picture posted on Weibo.
The exact size of the protest wasn’t clear, and city officials couldn’t be reached to comment. An employee at the emergency room of Shifang People’s Hospital said not many had sought treatment as a result of the protest, but declined to provide details.
A statement posted to the city government’s website said the type of people who supported the Shifang protests were the same as those supporting overseas groups opposed by the Chinese government. The statement specifically mentioned the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong and the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s spiritual leader.
“Don’t have a superstitious belief in the paper tiger,” the statement read. “They are vicious and merciless and can only convey unrest.”
The Shifang protests appeared to be part of China’s emerging “not-in-my-backyard” movement, where young urban-dwellers in particular have become increasingly vocal in opposing industrial projects viewed as damaging to the environment and their health.
Tea Leaf Nation, as always, is on the scene with translated netizen responses. “The protesters held homemade signs and placards. ‘Save Shifang, Give Us Back Our Environment,’ read one sign, and ‘Molybdenum Copper Plant, Get Out of Shifang,’ read another T-shirt.”
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that the project has been postponed “while authorities dispatch teams to educate citizens about it.” [Insert snarky and cynical thought here.]
Weibo continues to buzz about this protest, which looked like it continued into the night. Here are more pictures (also see: this one from yesterday):
Protesters react to riot police’s appearance:
UPDATE, 7/4, 5:30 pm: Here’s the best video yet; the smoke and stun grenades start going off around the 2-minute mark: