A group of Shanghai residents who had applied to the government for the right to hold an anti-maglev protest were rejected by the government. Despite this, small numbers of them intended to go on another “walk” in order to publicly air their grievances. This time, they were stopped by some other residents. According to this AP article, this is what happened:
Residents in armbands used a megaphone to warn people not to “linger here too long,” to avoid problems with the police, who had rejected their petition to hold a protest march against the magnetic levitation, or maglev, train.
Whether or not they did this for fear of things turning ugly for their fellow residents or some less altruistic aim, we do not know. We’re not even sure where it took place yet.
On the other hand, while we were out yesterday afternoon we did notice some “protest banners” up at 612 Nanjing Xi Lu, near all those ritzy shopping centers. The residents of the small lane complain that the unabated construction that has left them hemmed in by towering office and commercial buildings has adversely affected the physical structure of their homes: the ground has become uneven, high in some places and low in others, the buildings are tilting, walls are cracking, roofs are leaking, and their plumbing is sometimes erratic. It would take a civil engineer to sort through some of this, but it does seem plausible that some of the weird leanings and unevenness of the buildings both inside and out has something to do with how the ground has been changed by the construction (digging of basement parking structures, especially)．The denial of sunlight and the general feeling of being “surrounded” required no expertise to verify.
The residents have made their concerns heard have been offered forms of compensation–in the form of repairs–by various developers, but claim that none of the repairs has had any lasting effect. “These homes are seventy years old, doing small some repairs is just putting a band-aid on the problem,” one resident said to us. Another said that “generations of my family have grown up here, and we still want to live here, but how can we?” The general feeling is that their strategies up to now have not really worked, so they’ve decided to up the ante and be less cooperative–though we’re not sure exactly what means will be used on the way to those ends. There are still buildings being constructed around them, and they feel as if they don’t stand up for themselves, recent history is just going to repeat itself. You can see some other pictures from 2dogs here.
Both the problems faced by the residents of Nanjing Lu and the maglev protests are part of the larger homeowners’ “movement” in Shanghai and China. One Chinese article we read mentions how the “walk”/protest on January 6 of this year was somehow inspired by the PX factory issue in Xiamen–so it seems that some people are starting to believe in the power of the people–the title of the article says it all 民意的再次胜利 (Another victory for the popular will) . The article mentions how on January 22, a Shanghai government official made some remarks about holding public hearings and listening to the people before going ahead with the proposed Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev construction.
For more of a perspective on the homeowners, check out the recent China Beat blog post (you might need a proxy, looks like blogspot got GFW’d again) where Anjali Shah interviews Professor Benjamin Read, who has been doing research on homeowners/ tenants’ rights grassroots organizing.
Also on Shanghaiist:: Return of the Maglev protests
Photo from 2dogs