Occupy Wukan!

While the world is participating in the mass hysteria of occupy protests, a little village in Guangdong, China is staging its own…only this time against local government officials.

The last straw for the 10,000 residents of Wukan, Guangdong, was when a member of the village was allegedly beaten to death by local police. After many years of putting up with corruption from local officials and police, they have had enough.

The villagers don’t blame the central Chinese government, and in fact still have a strong support for the Chinese Communist Party. However, they are blaming the corruption which they believe is rife locally.

Most of the tension between the local government and the residents of Wukan has been over land disputes, as the villagers’ land is slowly taken over by developers.

Probably due to government fear of ‘Occupy-style’ protests or ‘Arab-Spring’ revolutions starting in China, the village has been stormed by baton-armed police officers. Tear gas was also allegedly used.

Coincidentally, the villager who is believed to have been killed by police, though they deny it, was a spokesperson trying to sort out the land ownership causing the disputes.

As with the Arab Spring, citizens are starting to call for Democracy. They want to elect their local leaders. And with the power that the Chinese people have when unified, looks like the Chinese government has something to worry about.

A new way to protest?

Following on from yesterday’s post, it seems that the trend of self-immolation as a means of protesting has caught on in other ethnicities other than Tibetans.

This month an 81-year old Chinese woman, Wang, also set herself alight in response to the demolition of her home in Henan.

The elderly woman’s house was due to be demolished to accommodate for a tunnel project.

This case is allegedly one of many of this kind, all in protest of house demolitions.

Wang’s relatives, who were later detained, had also doused themselves in petrol, threatening the demolition workers with setting themselves alight. But before they could, Wang had already gone ahead.

China is ranked 66th for the highest number of suicides by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is reasonably low considering the pressure to succeed and culture of saving face that Chinese people have.

In a country where opposition and protest are often suppressed, the Chinese people seem to be trying to find alternative ways to speak their mind. A way which will not end with being arrested.

The first I had heard of self-immolation was in Iran and Afghanistan. Women who could not bear to live any longer with their wicked husbands, would self-immolate.

Now it has become a trend in China too.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Politician

Its ludicrous to imply that Bollywood and the Chinese film industry could have any impact on relations between India and China, let alone reflect any warming between the two states.

I was taken aback by a recent article in the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s leading newspaper, entitled “Bollywood calling” by Charukesi Ramadurai, which surmised “after years of friction, relations between two of the world’s oldest cultures appear to be on the mend – so what if pop culture is the catalyst?”

She describes an increasing interest of Bollywood in China, and a growing inclusion of ‘Chinese’ themes in Indian cinema. Charukesi was right to spot a trend, as there have been many movies over the years either set in China or China-themed, for example Awara Hoon (1951), China Town (1962), Naam (1986), and more recently, Chandni Chowk to China (2009).

And as for Chinese movies in India, Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee have long been popular. Now Cindy Shyu has decided to make a brave move to merge the two, in Goldstruck, which will be produced jointly by the China Film Group, Lighthouse Productions (HK), and Eros International. It will play on racial stereotypes as two characters, one Indian and one Chinese, join forces to experiment how to turn bronze into gold.

It is granted that the two countries’ interests in each others’ film industries marks a gradual change in attitude, and that pop culture has often been something that softens tensions between peoples. The same has happened between China and Japan, China and South Korea; the Chinese being big fans of Japanese and Korean culture and dramas. However, if we look a little deeper, we can still find the underlying bitterness between Chinese and Japanese/Korean politicians, especially when territorial disputes and war memory rear their ugly heads again.

The same will go for Indo-Chinese relations, even if Bollywood does strike gold in China, or vice versa. It will be interesting to see what happens with the filming of Goldstruck as it will require the Chinese government to give a lot of leeway to the film crews and regarding its censorship.

On a local level in both India and China, it will still take time for attitudes towards each other to go beyond an “ooh, aah” wonderment at the colours of Indian dance or the skill of martial arts. We must remember that underneath the glitz and glam of the crouching tigers, there are always hidden politicians.