Voices from Shanghai

It has been almost two weeks after dead pigs were found floating on Huangpu River in Shanghai. So far, about 9800 carcasses were retrieved from Huangpu River and another 3600 from waterways in the neighboring Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province.

While Huangpu River provides drinking water for about 1/5 Shanghai residents, the municipal government  claims that there is no problem with the drinking water in Shanghai  and the water quality of the river has not been affected. Neither are there any explanations about exactly from where they carcasses came from and why the pigs died.

Facing such a big scandal, wide criticism of the authority’s management of the issue has been a hot topic on the Internet where opposition voice is expressed in various ways: making  up stories, composing poems, and posting sarcastic pictures to ridicule the whole situation.

Legal weapon has also been taken up by Shanghai citizens.  According to the Open Government Information Regulations that came into effect in May 2008, “Government agencies shall disclose government information timely and accurately. .” and citizens have the right to request government agencies to disclose information as well.   Lawyer Li Jun, university student Xiao Xi all requested Shanghai municipality government to disclose water quality information about the six water intake points and nine water plants.  Yin Li上海市民@伊丽, a Shanghai resident also requested Shanghai Water Management Bureau to disclose the Huangpu River water quality statistics.

Yin Li, Words on board: request for disclosing Huangpu River water inspection statistics

Yin Li, Words on board: request for disclosing Huangpu River water inspection statistics

One commented about Yin’s action says, ”although I can not see clearly your face behind the mask, the determination in your eyes tells  me that you are the most beautiful.”

Pan Ting 潘婷(in Chinese),  a Chinese poet and a Shanghai resident, posted questions for Shanghai municipal government on Weibo, a Chinese microblog, and her posts were repeatedly deleted.  In her posts, Pan wrote: Today, I even cried for my posts were deleted … the first time after posts being deleted in the past two years. I can not stand it. Is there anything wrong if I just want to fight for a clean Huangpu River in our hometown? On March 14, she posted on her weibo, let’s have an appointment on the river of pigs. She called people to take a stroll together at 2pm on March 23 to cherish the beautiful memory of the river. She also expressed that it is a pure stroll with participation out of free will and free gathering, with no banners or slogans.  This time, not only the post but also her account was deleted.

Shanghai poet Pan Ting

Shanghai poet Pan Ting, Caption: You can take my land with force, but never my freedom.

Nevertheless this is not the end.  Shanghai police went to her home to ask her to stop calling people to take the mass walk. Pan’s mother was scared and cried.  Pan had to give up for the sake of her mother. She handed in her communications appliances and had to cooperate with the police for 24 hours monitoring and a possible second time tea-drinking hell-chat.

On seeing red in China  a worth-reading post tries to answer the question why Shanghai residents are not angry and start to protest, it seems that the experience of Pan Ting explains part of the reason as well.

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