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Hundreds take part in rare protest in Beijing over migrant crackdown

Demonstrators condemn evictions and demolitions carried out by authorities which have seen thousands lose their homes

Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets of the Chinese capital to pillory Beijing’s crackdown on migrant communities with chants of “violent evictions violate human rights”.

Demonstrators gathered on the streets of Feijia village, about 12 miles northeast of Tiananmen Square, on Sunday for the small but rare rally condemning the eviction and demolition campaign.

Activists say thousands of migrant workers have been forced from their homes in Beijing’s rundown periphery since late November when authorities intensified efforts to drive “low-end” migrant workers out of the city in the wake of a deadly tenement fire.

Sunday’s protest was not reported in China’s Communist party controlled press but videos and photographs of the event spread online, with human rights campaigners cheering the scenes.

“The ‘low population’ is hitting back,” tweeted Yaxue Cao, the editor of ChinaChange.org, an English-language human rights website.

Footage showed crowds processing through the community, which is just north of the motorway leading to Beijing’s international airport and close to the 798 art district, itself the target of violent demolitions in the past. One group carried a white banner emblazoned with the phrase: “Baoli qugan qinfan renquan” – forced evictions violate human rights.

Eli Friedman, a Cornell University academic who studies China’s labour movement, said the protest – which coincided with the international human rights day – appeared to be the first since Beijing’s recent crackdown began. The demonstration suggested Beijing may have miscalculated how much outrage would be caused by the “ferocity” of its campaign, which has seen once vibrant migrant communities reduced to rubble.

Friedman, the author of a recent article about the evictions called Evicting the Underclass, predicted authorities would now move swiftly to ensure that the protest was nipped in the bud.

“They have a very well-developed apparatus for responding [to this kind of protest] … They do some divide and conquer [among protest leaders], they make some compromises, they pay a few people off … they might arrest a few people or sometimes even beat a few people up… But usually their repression is pretty targeted – they don’t do mass arrests in most cases – and they make the problem go away.”

Friedman said it was certain that the protests would not be allowed to spread – particularly if they appeared to be contaminating “potentially politically explosive groups” such as students or the middle class. Even so, Chinese president Xi Jinping’s attempts to project himself as an all-powerful champion of China’s poor were likely to be undermined by the mass evictions.

During visits to affected communities last week, several victims of the crackdown directly – and unusually – pointed the finger of blame at Xi. “I think what is happening is that … Xi Jinping has water in his head,” said one angry migrant from Anhui province.

Friedman said: “Given the scale people know that there is no way that [Beijing Communist party chief] Cai Qi or anyone in the Beijing municipal government would do something on this level without the approval of Xi Jinping.”

“It’s clearly been a terrible PR exercise.”

Source: The Guardian

The Jacobin article linked to inside is also a good read: Evicting The Underclass

These migrant workers are a big part of the economy in other Chinese cities too. Unlike the articles implying they are all “unskilled” labor like delivery drivers, construction workers and street vendors, i can assure you there are plenty of college grads and white collar workers who are also living without hukou in urban villages and quasi-legal tenements. I can’t see it as being a good move for the government to get on their wrong side.

In other China news, Australia is having a freakout over Chinese influence in their politics. Read more @ The Graun. A WaPo columnist thinks America will be next, after it gets over its own Russia freakout: China’s foreign influence operations are causing alarm in Washington. Interesting times ahead.

Source: ONTD_Political

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