Unprecedented Protests?

Wherever you are in the world, welcome to another edition of Jerry’s take on China. And this one is more of a news report than my usual researched articles. I don’t know if what I’m saying here will prove correct, there are a few assumptions but, if you know how China really is, as opposed to how China is portrayed, you’ll probably find some points of agreement, you might see some points of disagreement too and that’s fine, let’s discuss in the comments. What I hope you do find though are a couple of points that provoke your thoughts and give you a slightly different perspective

Let’s talk about these protests

First of all, the protests in Zhengzhou (Foxconn) and Xinjiang are genuine protests over grievances. One industrial and the other appears to be a degree of negligence which might even be criminal. There’s no need to discuss them in any depth here except to say that, in both cases, authorities will be investigating already, they will make decisions and they will take action and, given what I know about China’s recent history, that action will be appropriate and correct. Media will report otherwise, but they always do so, that’s to be expected.

Mainstream media lies to us, we know that. So, something people don’t realise is that, as Hong Kong’s finest journalist, in my opinion, Nury Vittachi of Friday every day, points out, there are almost 500 protests a day in China on average. I’ve seen several myself, a group of people with a grievance go to the government office and make some noise, chat with officials, the police are in attendance but generally, there’s nothing aggressive or violent, other than a bit of finger wagging and raised voices. Which is why these recent events are so different and, being different, I suspect they might be influenced by outsiders.

They certainly don’t appear to be organic.

They are very small in nature; although we’re seeing a lot of people, there are not a lot of protestors. I have friends in Guangzhou who are seeing nothing, my wife is currently in Foshan, West of Guangzhou there’re nothing there, I’m in Zhongshan directly south and nothing here, I was speaking with friends in Dongguan and Shenzhen yesterday who’ve seen nothing

They seem not to be organic because they are very localised, well organised, small in nature, few protesters but there’s more than that. The three locations affected the worst have hit my “foreign interference antennae”. Sichuan Province’s Chengdu, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Until a couple of years ago there was an American Consulate in Chengdu and the other two cities still have them. Call me conspiratorial but I suspect these “spontaneous protests” have been well organised and held until a suitable catalyst was found. Covid Dynamic Zero provides that catalyst.

What else makes me think it’s externally influenced, and I say it, not they because I’m convinced this is one movement not several random cities picking the same day to protest

Quite a few things in fact and I accept they are all circumstantial, I accept I’d have a hard problem proving them, but then that’s not my job, my job here is to alert people to the circumstances, so they can make their own informed opinions.

This is reminiscent of HK 2019, when media reported “student led protests” I find it hard to believe as, whenever there are Covid restrictions, students stay inside their institutions in closed loop management systems, not outside in the streets. I’ve been involved in the education industry for years; this one is a provable fact. So, let’s ignore the claims of “student led protests”

It looks remarkably similar also to Thailand and Myanmar and even the Solomon Islands where people suddenly gathered together with one cause. And, surprisingly words like “Freedom and democracy” are being used

There’s evidence in Xinjiang that some of the signage being used is written with Traditional Chinese characters, they’re only used in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. No one in Xinjiang would use them.

And, although complaints about Covid Zero implementation have been widely discussed on social media, (another thing Western media denies happens) protest has not been discussed, if it was, it’s well known that any discussion would be expunged by State censors. That much is true, China’s government does not allow discussion of dissent and protest on social media.

So where are these being organised? WhatsApp, Telegram, Link? We won’t know but if it transpires the police make arrests, they’ll definitely be investigating the phones of people they arrest and check for VPNs with encrypted messaging services. If this turns out to be true, I’m sure we’ll be informed. One thing I can point to is that searching of Telegram, has many Chinese links to typically 2019 HK used slogans. Another thing that leads me to outside interference.

In yet another small piece of evidence that this is not organic, as well as the slogans, the method of presenting them and even giving the protests a name that appears to have been adopted across several cities the “A4 Paper protests” how does that happen in different cities at the same time when people in China can’t even see these protests are going on in social media? I asked my wife this morning because she’s in another city and she said: what protests?

I haven’t had this confirmed yet but someone told me there were reports of Cantonese speakers in Shanghai and Chengdu, obviously, in Guangzhou, that’s to be expected but not those other places, if there are Cantonese speakers involved in this, do they come from Hong Kong or Guangdong? I’ll be interested in seeing where that line of enquiry goes.

The ABC points out that the last time in China there was any form of organised protest it was in 1989. And the world now knows there was some external influence to create the conditions at that time; let’s remind ourselves that Nancy Pelosi was in China with another Democrat, Ben Jones and a Republican John Miller. What were a bi-partisan US Congress group doing in China in 1989?

In a surprising twist, Ed Lawrence of the BBC was arrested and held for a few hours, according to media reports he was handcuffed, kicked and beaten. An amazing story about the police being afraid he would get covid seems to be appended to the media release — not sure what to make of that but it’s unlikely we’ll see the Chinese version of events as they would need to explain why they arrested him and they aren’t even talking about the protests. Unfortunately, we’re going to see the BBC’s version of events and that will be amplified throughout the world. I rather hope the Ministry of Foreign affairs covers it in coming days though.

Also, while we’re talking of police, as someone who has been on the front line of this kind of incident, I can attest, there has been remarkable police restraint, they are backing off a lot, not confronting. Also, it’s hard to tell who is police, and who are volunteers or even doctors defending themselves as they all wear the same protective clothing. This is giving western media ammunition to say the police are wielding sticks and batons when, what I’m seeing are people picking up sticks from broken fences to defend themselves, we don’t know if they are police or not so let’s not get too excited about that

If you have anything else you’d like to add to this, please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll definitely get back to you.

Thanks once again for listening to my take on the events taking place in China right now.

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Jerry Grey

I’m British born Australian living in Guangdong and have an MA in Cross Cultural Change Management. I write mostly positively about my China experiences