Shifang: A Study in Contrasts

The turmoil in Shifang subsided on Wednesday as the local government canceled plans to build a copper molybdenum processing plant. Earlier this week, street protesters were greeted with tear gas and billy clubs. Unarmed residents were beaten and arrested. Now those detained have been released.
The events speak to the power of public scrutiny, facilitated by Weibo, to force political change in China. A police notice issued July 2 references the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Assemblies, enacted in October 1989 after the bloody crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen months earlier. That law requires all protests to be formally approved by “competent authorities five days prior to the date of the activity.” The website Over the Wall (墙外楼) posted the notice, along with scenes from the Shifang streets and a call to arms written by protesters:
 
Shifang City Police Department
Public Notice Regarding Illegal Assembly, Protest and Demonstration
Shifang Police Notice #1 (2012)
On July 2 a group organized and instigated illegal protest activities in violation of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Assemblies, severely affecting normal social order and causing negative repercussions. To preserve social order and ensure the safety of all citizens and their property, we hereby hereby issue the following notice in accordance with the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Assemblies, Processions and Demonstrations:
1) Gathering or participating in assemblies or demonstrations of any kind which have not been approved by public security organs is strictly prohibited.
2) The use of the Internet, cell phone SMS messages or other means to organize or instigate illegal assemblies, protests or demonstrations of any kind is strictly prohibited.
3) Public security organs will, in accordance with the law, order those holding or participating in illegal assemblies, protests or demonstrations to

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