Another face

By CHINA DIARY - Neha Sahay
  • Published 29.10.09

The 60th anniversary celebrations are over, and things are back to normal. Shanghai’s posh People’s Plaza was witness to a sight more common in the capital. As throngs of people hurried by, and neon signs flashed ‘60th anniversary’ from all the shops, a girl dressed in white and holding up a long white banner was bodily removed by four policemen. This is what her banner said, each sentence written one below the other — “The city government forged my signature to agree to the relocation. While I was away in school, they began the demolition. My mother was so upset that she died suddenly. The relevant departments passed the buck and lied. Today, it is the celebration of National Day while I mourn the death of my mother. Whose fault is it!’’

The entire sequence of events — her holding the banner, arguing tearfully with the policemen, and then being lifted away — was recorded by an onlooker and posted on the internet. Netizens also traced her blog. Jin Tingqian is 28 years old, and her story reflects today’s China. All over the country, the 60th anniversary has unleashed a surge of feeling towards Chairman Mao. A karaoke bar had a big poster of a young Mao singing patriotic songs into a mike placed outside. Some people protested, but the bar-owners justified it by saying this was part of ‘Red October’. What happened to Jin Tingqian is also part of ‘Red October’.

Tingqian’s blog reveals that the public protest was a last resort, after letters and meetings with sundry officials after her fraudulent relocation had yielded nothing. The police told her that her protest was illegal. Tingqian writes : “The city relocation force used the authority of the state to take away my house and cause the death of my mother. They did not break the law. Instead, I break the law if I want to meet with a leader. Aren’t the leaders of China the leaders of the people? Don’t the signs in front of Chinese government offices say that they are the People’s Government? What is the law? The police always ask me whether I understand the law. If this is really the law, then does it serve justice or is it a tool with which to trample upon justice?’’

Another face

Actually, the ceremonial parade in Beijing on October 1 also spoke volumes about the way China has changed since 1949. Standing in the VIP enclosure at the Tiananmen gate tower, the very spot where Mao announced the founding of the People’s Republic of China, was an array of Hong Kong tycoons. One more incident from Red October. An 80-year-old in a wheelchair, escorted by her daughter, was turned away from a Parkson department store in Beijing. Along with pets and smoking, wheelchairs and blind people were also banned from the store, they were told by the security guard who showed them the visuals of prohibited items on the door. As a protest, two large cut-outs of blind people, a wheelchair and some slippers were left outside the store by angry shoppers after the daughter went to the press with the story.

Was this less obnoxious than the sign outside a designer store in a provincial capital which showed among the visuals of prohibited items, the figure of a human being in a straw hat and obviously ill-fitting clothes? Straw hats are ubiquitous in rural China; many migrant labourers also wear them in the cities. The Chinese who posted the sign on his blog named it: “Dogs and farmers not allowed.’’

In her blog, Jin Tingqian wrote about her mother’s last words: “When I was young, I heard the adults say that after our Party and Army liberated Shanghai, they slept in the streets because they did not want to disturb the civilians. But why are things like this nowadays?”