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Rising Protests in China

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As China grows into its role as a 21st-century economic powerhouse, its government is struggling with the growth of popular unrest. Groups of Chinese citizens, from small bands of workers to entire villages, have been staging protests across the massive nation with increasing frequency. According to research by the Chinese Academy of Governance, the number of protests in China doubled between 2006 and 2010, rising to 180,000 reported "mass incidents." The uprisings are responses to myriad issues, primarily official corruption, government land grabs, Tibetan autonomy, and environmental problems. Late last year, the residents of Wukan -- angered by a land grab by corrupt officials -- rose up and briefly seized control of their village. After several days, the government gave in, admitting to mistakes and vowing to crack down on corruption. Villagers were also allowed to hold their first-ever secret ballot elections, apparently free from Communist Party interference. On February 11, 2012, Wukan residents elected their own governing committee, with a voter turnout of 85 percent. [41 photos]

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A wounded villager from Wukan is seen after a riot with the police the day earlier in Lufeng, a city of 1.7 million, in the southern Chinese Guangdong province, on September 23, 2011. Hundreds of villagers in southern China protested on Friday over a government seizure of land, the latest outbreak of trouble in Guangdong province that illustrates growing public anger at the practice of land grabs. (Reuters/Staff)
A wounded villager from Wukan is seen after a riot with the police the day earlier in Lufeng, a city of 1.7 million, in the southern Chinese Guangdong province, on September 23, 2011. Hundreds of villagers in southern China protested on Friday over a government seizure of land, the latest outbreak of trouble in Guangdong province that illustrates growing public anger at the practice of land grabs. (Reuters/Staff)
People walk next to a damaged car during a protest in Zhili town, Huzhou city, Zhejiang province, on October 27, 2011. Hundreds of people clashed with police and smashed public property after a dispute between tax authorities and a local shop owner snowballed into protests, a government-run news site said. (Reuters/Carlos Barria) #
Riot police order people to move at the entrance to the Zhili town government building in Huzhou city, Zhejiang province, on October 27, 2011. Hundreds of people clashed with police and smashed public property after a dispute between tax authorities and a local shop owner snowballed into protests. (Reuters/Carlos Barria) #
People take pictures of paramilitary police with their mobile phones, during a patrol at a street of Zhili town, in Huzhou city, Zhejiang province, on October 28, 2011. Days of protests in an east China town over a tax dispute appeared to have subsided on Friday and media reported that officials had suspended tax collection that sent hundreds of rural migrants into the streets. (Reuters/Carlos Barria) #
Artist Zhou Yong Yang gestures in front of a wall, left blank in support of detained artist-activist Ai Weiwei, during the opening of the Third Incidental Art Festival in Beijing June 1, 2011. The tag to the bottom right reads "Ai Weiwei, Beijing 2011". Organizers of an art show in the Chinese capital have left an empty space on a gallery wall for detained artist-activist Ai Weiwei in a rare gesture of open defiance over the case. Ai Weiwei was released on bail on June 22, 2011. (Reuters/Petar Kujundzic) #
Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (center) and four women pose naked, in this undated handout released on November 21, 2011. Chinese Internet users' latest show of solidarity with Ai, whose 81-day secret detention in 2011 sparked an international outcry, took the unlikeliest form of protest: mass nudity. By the afternoon of November 21, 2011, seventy people had posted nude photos of themselves on a website called "Ai Wei Fans' Nudity -- Listen, Chinese Government: Nudity is not Pornography" -- a rare form of protest in a country where public nudity is still taboo. They uploaded the photos after Beijing police questioned Ai's videographer Zhao Zhao on November 17, 2011, for allegedly spreading pornography online by taking nude photographs of Ai and four women. (Reuters/Zhao Zhao) #
Over one thousand Chinese people gather on a street to protest against the police for favouring a luxury car's driver involved in a traffic accident with a bus, in Beijing, on May 23, 2011. Chinese officials are struggling to cool criticisms over a widening income gap at a time when high inflation has put economic and social pressure on the country's hundreds of millions of low-income farmers and industrial workers, as in a country where "guanxi" -- connections with high-level officials or businessmen -- are seen as vital to moving up the ladder. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #
A farmer digs up celery in a small parcel of land, surrounded by heaps of construction earth and waste, in Wanggang village in China's southern Guangdong province, on January 19, 2012. The villagers recently staged a mass protest outside a city government office, angered at a local village Communist Party chief whom they accuse of illegally plundering their farmland, allowing it to be leased off for dumping and commercial purposes. (Reuters/James Pomfret) #
The Chinese national flag flies from a makeshift mast as residents of the village of Wukan in Lufeng county, Guangdong province, remove a barricade blocking a bridge leading into the village, on December 20, 2011. For a week, the semi-urban village of Wukan in Guangdong province has driven off officials and police, and held daily protests attracting thousands of residents outraged by the death in custody of local man Xue Jinbo. A village leader in the besieged village has told hundreds of residents at a rally on Monday to participate in a protest march on Wednesday to deliver a petition the local government. (Reuters/David Gray) #
Mr Zhang, a 44-year old resident of Wukan, a fishing village in the southern province of Guangdong holds up the deeds to a tract of family land which the local government took away from him in 1995, on the rooftop of his house on December 17, 2011. Wukan villagers have complained of government land grabs for decades, but a massive real estate project announced in September led to an outpouring of pent up anger resulting in riots and clashes with police. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images) #
A protester argues with a police officer at the entrance to a police station in Wukan village in Lufeng, on September 22, 2011. Hundreds of villagers in southern China protested on Friday over a government seizure of land, the latest outbreak of trouble in the economic powerhouse of Guangdong province that illustrates growing public anger at the practice of land grabs. (Reuters/Stringer) #
Residents of the village of Wukan listen to town representatives speak from the stage of the town theater during a meeting, on December 21, 2011. A protest march scheduled for Wednesday was called off after an agreement was reached between village representatives and government officials, seemingly ending the week-long stand-off. (Reuters/David Gray) #
Four-year-old Zhang Jing Wen holds up a photograph of her father in her home in Wukan, a fishing village in the southern province of Guangdong, on December 17, 2011. Wen Jian is the daughter of Zhang Jian Cheng, one of the five Wukan villagers who were detained after complaining against government land grabs. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images) #
Residents of the village of Wukan walk under protest banners erected on the main street of the village in Lufeng county, on December 18, 2011. (Reuters/David Gray) #
A young villager walks inside a damaged government office in Wukan, on September 24, 2011, one day after ransacking government buildings and engaging in skirmishes with police that left at least 12 people injured. (Reuters/Staff) #
On February 1, 2012, a Chinese man casts his vote as thousands of residents take part in the voting for their first-ever open democratic elections for the village committee in Wukan, after residents protested for months in autumn in 2011 against their allegedly corrupt leaders. Residents in Wukan won rare concessions after they faced off with authorities for more than a week in December in a row over land and graft, including pledges to hold free village polls. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Ethnic Tibetan woman stands on a street as armed Chinese PLA soldiers keep watch in Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan province, on January 27, 2012. The Tibetan-inhabited region of West Sichuan appeared to be under lockdown after it was rocked by deadly clashes, as exile groups gave grisly details of how the unrest unfolded. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images) #
In this photo taken on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 and released by a person with contacts in China's Tibetan community, Tibetans throw what appeared to be dry tsampa, a popular Tibetan foodstuff, into the air as they gather on the side of a main street in Nangqian county, China's Qinghai province, to protest Chinese rule and to call for independence for Tibet and the return of the Dalai Lama from exile. (AP Photo) #
Tibetans gather on the side of a main street in Nangqian county, China's Qinghai province, on February 8, 2012. Another Tibetan set himself on fire in western China to protest government policies while thousands marched in another part of China to show support for their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, a report said. (AP Photo) #
Tibetans gather on the side of a main street in Nangqian county, China's Qinghai province, to protest Chinese rule and to call for independence for Tibet and the return of the Dalai Lama from exile, on February 8, 2012. Two Tibetan brothers on the run since taking part in anti-government protests two weeks ago were shot dead in southwest China's Sichuan province, a U.S.-funded broadcaster reported on Friday, February 10. (AP Photo) #
Tibetan Buddhist nuns from the Ganden Jangchup Choeling nunnery sit on a mountain slope near the town of Daofu, Sichuan province November 13, 2011. The nunnery stands hidden from view on an isolated mountain-top in southwestern China, accessible only by a twisting, rocky road. Palden Choetso, a 35-year-old Tibetan Buddhist nun who burned herself to death on a public street an hour's drive away on November 3, 2011, the latest in a string of self-immolations to protest against Chinese religious controls over Tibet, lived in a mud-brick hut at the nunnery. (Reuters/Carlos Barria) #
A woman throws a white scarf over Tibetan Buddhist nun Palden Choetso as she burns on the street in Daofu, or Tawu in Tibetan, in this still image taken from video shot on November 3, 2011 and released to Reuters on November 22. The 35-year-old Tibetan Buddhist nun burned herself to death on the public street, the latest in a string of self-immolations to protest against Chinese religious controls over Tibet. (Reuters/Students For A Free Tibet via Reuters TV) #
This undated photo shows Palden Choetso, a Buddhist nun who died on November 3, 2011, after setting herself on fire in protest in Sichuan province, China. In China, eleven Tibetan monks and nuns -- some former clergy -- have resorted to the extreme protest since March, 2011. At least six have been fatal. (AP Photo/Students for a Free Tibet) #
This photo taken on June 12, 2011 shows hundreds of residents gathering along the main road in Xintang town, a denim garment district in southern China's Guangzhou province. Hundreds of people rioted in southern China over the weekend, with the major city of Guangzhou hit by mass protests after rumors spread on the Internet that police beat a street hawker to death. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #
Onlookers watch cars burning after hundreds of residents rioted along the main road in Xintang town, a denim garment district in southern China's Guangzhou province, on June 12, 2011. Hong Kong television on June 13 showed scenes from the previous night of cars engulfed in flames and police out in force to quell rioting in the manufacturing hub of over 10 million. The riots were reportedly sparked by online rumours that a man in the village was beaten to death and his pregnant wife manhandled during a police operation targeting street hawkers, the paper added. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #
Petitioners hold up red scarves with a piece of paper written with a Chinese character for "sick" as they protest outside the Ministry of Civil Affairs in Beijing, China, on November 24, 2011. About 30 petitioners who they said were infected with HIV from blood transfusions held up a chain of the red scarves to symbolize their demands the government to provide compensation for their children's treatment. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) #
Students from Mongolian schools march in a protest before a government office in Xilinhot in northern China's Inner Mongolia province, on May 25, 2011. Authorities poured more police into the streets and slowed Internet service in several parts of China's Inner Mongolia on Monday, May 30, following days of protests believed to be the largest in the region in 20 years. (AP Photo/Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center) #
Chinese security personnel face off protesters on a street of Xilinhot in northern China's Inner Mongolia province, on May 23, 2011, following days of protests believed to be the largest in the region in 20 years. (AP Photo/Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center) #
Policemen take away a demonstrator during a protest on a street in Xilinhot, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in this photo dated May 23, 2011. According to Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, on the morning of May 23, 2011, hundreds of Mongolian herders went on a protest against the Chinese miners' killing of a Mongolian herder and the destruction of Mongolian herders' grazing land. (Reuters/Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center/Handout) #
Chinese villagers hold placards reading "I want a home" and "firmly resist illegal demolition" as they protest against low compensations following land seizure disputes with local government and a property developer in Beixin village, in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province, on July 14, 2011. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #
This photo taken on July 20, 2011 shows a protester being held by Chinese enforcement officers as a group of illegal buildings is demolished in Wuhan, in central China's Hubei province. Soaring property prices are a major source of official and consumer concern in China with apartment costs rising out of the reach of many people and threatening to spark social unrest in the country of more than 1.3 billion. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #
Riot policemen remove protesters outside the entrance of a factory of Zhejiang Jinko Solar Co. Ltd. in Haining, Zhejiang province, on September 17, 2011. Hundreds of villagers in east China's Zhejiang Province protested for days at the solar panel manufacturer, which is a subsidiary of a New York-listed firm, over concerns about its harmful wastes, Xinhua News Agency reported. (Reuters/Stringer) #
Riot policemen shield themselves from rocks thrown by protesters they approach the entrance of a factory of Zhejiang Jinko Solar Co. Ltd. in Haining, Zhejiang province, on September 17, 2011, after days of protests directed toward the solar panel manufacturer, over concerns about its harmful wastes, Xinhua News Agency reported. (Reuters/Stringer) #
A large crowd of villagers forms in front of police lines at the scene of environmental protests over the past few days in the town of Haimen, Guangdong Province, on December 22, 2011. Demonstrations over a power plant in southern China turned violent when police fired tear-gas and beat protesters, witnesses said. At least six people were said to have been injured in the clashes with police. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images) #
Protestors pull back after Chinese police fired tear gas at them along a highway in Haimen township, in south China's Guangdong province, on December 20, 2011. Police in riot gear fired tear gas and beat demonstrators who stormed government buildings in southern China on to protest a power plant, witnesses said. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #
A man on a motorcycle stops in front of riot police blocking the entrance from the main highway to the town of Haimen, on December 22, 2011. A Chinese official denied on Wednesday reports of deaths during clashes in Haimen town in southern China between police and residents protesting against a plan to build a coal-fired power plant. Thousands of angry residents in the town, part of Shantou city in Guangdong province, surrounded a government building and blocked an expressway, Chinese media reported. Online accounts of the incident had claimed that two people had died. (Reuters/David Gray) #
Members of the environmental group Greenpeace show pictures of polluted rivers in China as part of a protest at a popular shopping area in Beijing, on July 13, 2011. Environmentalists protested outside an Adidas clothing store after Greenpeace accused suppliers of major clothing brands, including Adidas and Nike, of poisoning China's major rivers with hazardous chemicals linked to hormonal problems. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images) #
Chinese police subdue a protester as over 1,500 people gather in front of government offices, throwing bottles and objects at police and breaking down the gate to the compound in Lichuan, central China's Hubei province, on June 9, 2011. Two officials were detained in central China after 1,500 protesters clashed with riot squads following the alleged death in police custody of a local legislator, state press said. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #
Chinese riot police in formation at the gate as over 1,500 people gather in front of government offices, throwing bottles and objects at police and breaking down the gate to the compound in Lichuan, Hubei province, on June 9, 2011. Two officials were detained after 1,500 protesters clashed with riot squads following the alleged death of a local legislator in police custody. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #
81-year-old farmer Wen Chungui speaks about relocating from his home in Wenzhuang village in northern China's Hebei province, on February 10, 2011. As China tries to protect farmland from development, officials are going after the land underneath farmers' homes instead. The relocations, often forced and at compensation levels deemed unfair, are raising tensions in a countryside already straining from protests over official misdeeds. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) #
Plainclothes police officers detain Liu Xiaobai for placing a white jasmine flower on a planter in front of a McDonald's restaurant that was a planned protest site in Beijing, China, on February 20, 2011. Jittery Chinese authorities had staged a concerted show of force to squelch a mysterious online call for a "Jasmine Revolution" apparently modeled after pro-democracy demonstrations sweeping the Middle East. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) #

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