In China, the government is increasingly looking for ways to address the underlying concerns behind a recent surge of economic protests, some of which have turned violent.
A recent editorial on the front page of the People’s Daily, the main Chinese Communist Party newspaper, declared that any attempt to use protests to correct social injustices would be punished. “The solution of any problems must rely on the Party, the government, the law, the policies, and the system,” the editorial said.
Recent newspaper articles report that the Chinese Minister of Public Security told a closed meeting of Chinese officials that nearly four million Chinese took part in seventy-four-thousand protests in 2004. The minister reportedly characterized this as a dramatic increase from previous years. Even more worrisome, the Minister of Public Security reportedly continued, is a noticeable trend toward organized unrest, rather than the spontaneous outbursts that traditionally have led to periodic violent clashes between citizens and the Chinese authorities. The Minister of Public Security reportedly said that most protests have erupted over specific economic issues without any overt political demands.
If the Chinese government is truly intent on maintaining social stability, it should find ways to establish social safety nets for people who need them and to promote economic opportunity and health and safety measures that will ensure a better way of life for all. In addition, people should have the right to protest peacefully so they can resolve their problems without violence.
A mature society trusts its people to express themselves peacefully when they believe their interests are not being properly addressed. President George W. Bush put it best in a speech he gave at a university in Beijing in 2002: “Those who fear freedom sometimes argue it could lead to chaos. But it does not,” Mr. Bush told the university students. “Life in America shows that liberty, paired with law, is not to be feared. In a free society, diversity is not disorder. Debate is not strife. And dissent is not revolution. A free society trusts its citizens to seek greatness in themselves and their country.”
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.