March 17, 2008


Beijing's dread of dissent (John Lee | March 18, 2008, The Australian)

Don't be fooled by the glamour of Shanghai or the magnificence of Beijing. There are large swaths of disunity and disorder in the country.

For example, China claims 23 provinces, five autonomous regions, four municipalities, and two special administrative regions: Hong Kong and Macau. Of these, Taiwan remains recalcitrant and is effectively a separate state. Many of the Uighurs in the western province of Xinjiang want out.

Residents in Hong Kong want guarantees that Beijing will not dismantle the rights they enjoyed under British rule. And traditional Tibetans, fearful of a complete Han Chinese takeover and the suppression of their culture and religion, want more and more autonomy.

Furthermore, there is widespread disorder even in provinces that pose no challenge to Beijing's right to rule. In 2006, the latest available figures, there were 87,000 officially recorded instances of unrest, which is defined as those involving 15 or more people.

These protests are overwhelmingly spontaneous and arise from the frustration of the one billion or so "have-nots": with the hardship in their lives, against illegal taxes and land grabs by corrupt officials, against job losses and so on.

Although these protests rarely call for the overthrow of the regime, they do express profound dissatisfaction with local officials.

This brings us back to Tibet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 17, 2008 12:48 PM
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