Monday, April 18, 2005

Honey, I witnessed the protests!

These days I have been preoccupied too much with the state-sponsored anti-Japanese protests going on in China. I have been talking, thinking and blogging a lot about this, not because I care any damn thing, but because of the whole drama behind the protests.

I really wanted to witness it first-hand, but couldn't do it because of two reasons: (a) as the media is tightly controlled by China, there's almost no information available about the protests, their schedules, locations etc (b) I have been lethargic and so unwilling to go around the town looking for protestors on the street. I just don’t feeling like getting out of the comforts of my home, especially so during the weekends.

However, today was an exception and I was more than pleased to have got a rare chance to witness some protests in the communist land.

One of my friends wanted to buy some electronic stuff. So we headed off to HuaQiangBay, the city's downtown filled with shopping malls and restaurants, and of course good-looking girls :-).

So we went around lots of shops, saw everything except what we wanted, fiddled with what’s on display and finally managed to escape from the persuasive salespersons. As we were coming out of a shopping mall, we saw lot of people standing along the road. By the time we hit the walkway, we could clearly see the whole road lined with people and police. Initially, there were more police than people. Later on people started to fill in.

We were waiting anxiously to see whats going to happen. We waited for 10 minutes but nothing happened; 15 minutes, still nothing happened. Finally, after 20 minutes or so, we could see some people marching on the street. They were holding some placards (very few), shouting out something against Japan. And only God knows why, suddenly al the people who were watching from the roadside started clapping, as if they were watching some parade during a festival or national celebrations. It was really strange.

Then there was absolute silence. Nothing happened for about 15 minutes. Then there was another bunch of protesters. And again people clapped and laughed. One could hardly sense the kind of tension or anxiety that you typically see during protests. Everyone (spectators as well as protestors) was laughing and going around as if they are enjoying some festivities. It was weird.

And the police were also smiling sheepishly. Some of them seemed to be from the paramilitary and were like new recruits in the age range of 18 to 20. They were made to march from one end to the other end of the road unnecessarily.

When everybody thought it’s all over, some prankster climbed atop the roof of one of the shopping malls. He tried to cover that part of the advertisement on the façade (Panasonic). Obviously he didn’t know how to read English. So he covered only the text written in Chinese. The word “Panasonic” written in English was left unharmed and was clearly visible.

Protesters forced one of the Sony authorized shops to close its doors, and then lined its entrance with bricks and left a pair of sued slippers (later, I saw an aged beggar happily taking possession of those slippers).

You could see almost all the bystanders capturing those “rare” moments in their camera phone and digital cameras. Some even had brought Video cameras to record the whole drama.

By now it was almost 6 O’ clock, dinnertime for Chinese. So all the spectators started drifting towards the nearby KFCs, McDonalds and other fast food chains. Soon the roads were almost deserted, and you could see some uniformed men dotting the restaurants.
So this was the Chinese version of protests that mark their patriotism, anger towards Japan and what not. It was more like a weekend family outing filled with, food, fun and drama!

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