Thursday, July 21, 2005


by Elaine Meinel Supkis

I have detailed before how the dictators of China try to run the place as if there is no opposition but we all know there is fierce opposition. Unlike Americans, the Chinese peasants aren't meekly trailing after the ruling elite, obedient and stupified. Instead, they stand up for their rights, their land, themselves.

They riot. They get killed but they fight on. They don't give up.

From the BBC:
Chinese farmers have won a dispute over land rights which culminated in a bloody riot last month in the northern province of Hebei, state media says.

Farmers in Shengyou village, northern Hebei province, were angry they had not been compensated for land proposed for a power plant's ash storage yard.

Now, the yard will be built in a place where it will take less arable land.

"[Because] Shengyou village, the originally proposed site of the power plant's ash storage yard, has a big population but relatively little land, the Hebei provincial government... has now made a decision not to requisition land from that village," Xinhua state news agency reported.

Dramatic footage handed to The Washington Post in June showed local farmers fighting a pitched battle with dozens of unidentified men wearing camouflage gear and construction helmets wielding hunting rifles and clubs.

Police have since arrested 31 people and detained another 131 involved in the incident, Xinhua said.
The peasants are paying a high price. Some are now in jail, facing prison, facing terrible times. But they are also heroes. And prison makes them stronger, not weaker.

Relative strength lies in one's will and one's refusal to be defeated even when the rulers apply great force.

We see this in Iraq. America has thrown all it can at the people of Iraq and failed. The greatest power: corruption, bribes, has failed the most there.

From Xinhuanews:
Not long ago, Tian Guirong, a well-known environmentalist in Henan Province, central China, beat her rival, a local factory owner, in the elections of Fanling Village committee.

The villagers hailed it as "the victory of the ordinary," and hoped that Tian would help drive out polluting factories run by local people.

Fanling villagers used to enjoy a comfortable, pastoral life, with clean water from two sources -- the Communist Canal and the Weihe River. But their pleasant life came to an end a few years ago, when chemical factories began appearing in the village and the surrounding area.

Since being elected village head, Tian has been busy scrutinizing the behavior of the factories and resisting attempts to build new factories that may create pollution for the village.

Tian's plight is common in China's rural areas today. Environmental protection has become one of the top concerns of Chinese farmers.

"Environmental pollution is threatening the life of villagers in many parts of the country," says Zhang Yulin, a scholar from Nanjing University.
It is interesting that even the official news is gingerly covering this developing story. Like in all previous industrializing nations, pollution is a big problem. In Mexico, since the factories were nearly owned by Americans who didn't want environmental controls, the factories polluted like crazy. Even though this pollution ran into rivers bordering the USA, both countries shrugged this off. The fact that water pollution flows into the Gulf of Mexico, this didn't deter them. One supposes they think the Gulf is an infinite body of water.

So the pollution became utterly horrible. Just last month, I saw a story about two Mexican refugees pulled out of the muck in the Rio Grande because they couldn't go any further, they wore white disguises to look like the towering piles of soapy sudsy looking crap. Incredible. This ferocious level of pollution hasn't helped the Mexican peasants much. But they can't fight back because they are overruled by America's rulers who keep the lid very tight on these poor people.

Which is why I can't get even slightly angry over the stuff about "Mexicans are invading America." We invade them, with armies and navies and with laws and our factories and whatever. I consider them to be ex-cathedra Americans with no say, no vote in who really rules them so why even have a border? It certainly doesn't keep American powers out.
Chen Yingxu, deputy dean of the Environment and Resources Institute of Zhejiang University, says the authorities should attach great importance to environmental problems in the countryside. "Farmer's health rights must be put on top the agenda," he says.

In some areas, local environmental departments have been blamedfor their failure to tackle environmental problems and protect villagers' health rights.

"Localism is one of the major obstacles to anti-pollution efforts," says Tian.

There are accusations that in Xinxiang, where Fanling Village is located, local environmental officials have tried hard to cover up the serious environmental degradation.

But some officials argue that environmental problems are exaggerated.

Fan Ziding, secretary of the village's Party committee, doubts Tian's credibility, saying Tian has a low educational background (she only graduated from elementary school), and a lack of experience in rural matters.

"Environmental protection should be only a small part of the work for a village head, but Tian always talks about it regardless of the overall situation," he says.
The peasants amaze me. One of the leaders is a woman with scant education but wisdom and sense. This irritates those in power. Tian is my hero for today. I love her. She sensibly understands pollution is never local, it is global. I hope she is invited to be the keynote speaker at the next Kyoto Accord meetings. I hope she can lecture Bush.

I am rather ticked that Americans can't or won't lecture him. This is our great failing. We complain, we talk, but we won't rip apart the Machine itself.

History is written by those who fight back.

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