China's accelerating unrest


The Chinese are traking to the streets in record numbers of cases, protesting pollution, corruption, high—handedness, seizures of property, and other examples of the autocratic behavior of their masters. The New York Times reports:

The number of "public order disturbances" rose 6.6 percent last year, to 87,000. Mass protests that involved "disturbing social order" jumped 13 percent, while those that "interfered with government functions" surged 19 percent, the Public Security Bureau, the national police, told Chinese reporters at a news conference on Thursday that was reported by the New China News Agency. [snip]

Peasants, migrant workers and former employees of bankrupt state—run factories in the cities — collectively the overwhelming majority of China's 1.3 billion people — have tended to benefit far less from the prosperity than the budding urban middle class and the party elite.

Most legal scholars say that courts are too weak and tightly controlled to resolve grievances that ordinary people have against the government or the party.

In 1994, the police recorded about 10,000 protest incidents, but the statistics show that both the frequency and the scale of the unrest have increased rapidly every year since, even as the economy has expanded faster than that of any other major country.

Unrest has worsened especially quickly in the last several years because the government has seized millions of acres of rural land, which peasants can farm but not own, to make way for factories and real estate developments. Compensation is very low and many peasants say they have no choice but to protest to win attention for their claims.