If you thought that deploying geriatrics was a safe way of ensuring your protest will be a success, then think again. Malcolm Moore of the Daily Telegraph reports that on Tuesday, busloads of policemen dealt “briskly and aggressively” to clear a noisy crowd of 300 grandparents protesting outside a local court. The next day, the court sentenced activist grandmother Zhang Weiming, 65, to three and a half years jail for “organising a crowd to create a disturbance”. Zhang has been spending the last eight years fighting for the rights of some 100,000 Shanghainese sent to Xinjiang in the 1960s by Chairman Mao.
The story of her struggle, as told by her son:
“The Shanghai government has already recognised that the workers who came back from Xinjiang are some of the most disadvantaged members of society,” said her son, Xie Jun, 37.
“Many of them have not been registered back in Shanghai by the authorities or had their accommodation problems solved. My mother stood up for them. She has helped as many as 500 people. So bit by bit she became a thorn in the side of the government,” he added.
Mrs Zhang was elected as an unofficial leader by the thousands of returnees, presiding over a council of delegates representing each of the different platoons of workers.
However, in April, the Shanghai police came to her house to arrest her. “On the day she was taken my father went out early to take out the rubbish,” said Mr Xie.
“He saw a car filled with people outside, which was odd because it was so early. They told him they wanted to have a talk with my mother. This had happened before, when city officials wanted to discuss the situation with her, so she dressed and left. That was the last we saw of her,” he added.