Shanghaiist has been wary of taking pictures of protesters, as it’s gotten us in a wee bit of trouble with the authorities before. We got a call a couple of a days ago from some of the folks connected with the housing demolitions and tenants’ rights “movement” here in Shanghai, telling us that something was going to happen on Monday. We went, and saw this man (pictured here), making one last stand on the roof of a building where he lives and which is slated for destruction. He’d been there since early in the morning and policemen on motorcycles were on the street monitoring the situation. Our contact happened to live nearby and we managed to get some snaps before they urged us to leave for our own good.
A couple of things to notice: zoom in on the flag and you’ll see a Mao badge on top of the pole. Secondly, check out the structure of the banner. In the top corner, 暴力＝violence. In the bottom left, 强迁＝forced evictions. In the middle, 和谐＝harmony (or harmonious). On the upper right, 民生＝the lives of the ordinary people. On the bottom left, 法制＝rule of law.
We would interpret this as meaning that in a truly harmonious society, the lives of ordinary people would be protected by the rule of law against the violence of forced evictions. When we were caught taking pictures by the police last time they said to us that these people are resisting the government (在跟政府对抗). They told us that while people could protest in front of the White House lawn (we told them we were Americans), people here couldn’t protest in front of Shanghai government buildings. However, it seems that high above the street, you can protest on your own roof. From conversations with these folks, it is not hard to sense their complete disillusionment with the government and party. Perhaps the Mao badge is a reminder, to them, of “better days” — when the people’s government was for the people. Of course, they know better than to hope for a return to that — and thus they look forward, towards the building of a society based on the rule of law, where law is considered here a shield and weapon for both rich and poor, powerful and weak to use in the protection of their rightful interests. How does that conception of the law fare in reality? It’s not hard to guess. That piece of paper he is wearing around his neck is probably what most of the protesters always have with them — spare copies of their cases, which includes legal documents and descriptions of the various injustices they’ve suffered.
We don’t know what happened to this guy. If we find out more information, we will add it — keep an eye on the comments.