Protests in the streets isn't something you hear about much in China. If you're old enough to remember a young man staring down a tank in Tiananmen Square like me you know it's a rare occurrence, and it has ended poorly for the protesters.
What do I know? Not much other than what I'm reading on American news websites.
My friend Daisy is upset, and justifiably so. Ten people were reportedly killed in a fire. The fire was in a building that was locked down. People couldn't get out. Firefighters couldn't get in. She shared this picture with me tonight.
They were two of the fire victims. That's brutal. Chinese media coverage is nonexistent because it's controlled by the party. Further, she tells me that nobody knows the results of what happened or is happening with the protesters, many on college campuses. The government can shut down internet and cell connections in any area quickly. I'll be checking out NPR a bit more in the coming days. People are getting pissed off about the lockdowns and zero tolerance Covid policies.
I was thrilled about coming to China. It has thiusands of years of history compared to our hundreds in the states. But not just the history. How do the majority of people here live day to day? How does it compare to my middle class life in the states? Do they interact in the society the same as us? If not, what's different? I went to a driving range to hit golf balls today. In the bay next to me was a tiny little girl. Maybe five or six years old. We shared a bunch of smiles. It was a cool interaction. Her mom right behind her appreciated it too. Smiles are an international language. It was the sort of thing that gives you hope. They're just like us.
I wasn't thrilled about the government here, but I knew that I would be somewhat sheltered from it working at an international school. So far, that's largely been true. However, I've made some Chinese friends here and I can see that they're hurting. That's not pleasant to see. When the person affected is a family member of a friend you feel it in a different way. The government control here is real, and people here have a legitimate fear of what could happen to them. Many living here have family that lived through horrific experiences. Famine isn't something I don't think any of my friends back in the states have first hand experience with. Having family members locked up because they were college educated is a reality that here that people know. They fear it could happen again. Given that reality it's understandable they tend not to be too outspoken. I won't judge them harshly for not taking to the streets. Dissent here is not tolerated.
Seeing it first hand here is making me appreciate what we have in the states. It's been a bit ugly the past few election cycles and we have real problems, but I don't think squashing dissent is the answer. Yes, we have health care issues. We have homelessness issues. We have poverty issues. So far it's a slam dunk choice. Casting a ballot and being allowed to bitch about society is a right I don't want to give up.