As China’s economic growth falters and unemployment rises, political activists—marginalised during the past few years of prosperity—will become a bigger worry to the government. The 20th anniversary on June 4th of the quashing of the Tiananmen Square protests will be the highlight of the dissident calendar. For Tibetans it will be the 50th anniversary on March 10th of an uprising that led to the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile in India. Followers of Falun Gong, a quasi-Buddhist sect, will want to mark the tenth anniversary on July 22nd of its banning. Ever fearful of instability, the government will be especially anxious to quell dissent in the build-up to celebrations on October 1st of 60 years of Communist Party rule.
Dissidents can take some pride in their first salvo of the season. Their petition, known as Charter 08, which they issued online in early December to mark the 60th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, was initially signed by 303 intellectuals. They included a wide range of lawyers, journalists, academics and activists. Organisers say that thousands more have added their names (by sending their details to an e-mail address), although the identities of many of them are difficult to verify.
On a similar topic, read “The Year China Jumped the Gun” by Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom in The Nation.