Monday, November 9, 2009

Civil protest, Chinese style

Sun [Zhongjie] became a hero of sorts here in Shanghai for his protest against police entrapment.

He was driving his company's minivan on an errand last month when a man flagged him down and begged for a lift. A few minutes later, policemen surrounded Sun's vehicle and accused him of operating an illegal taxi. The van was confiscated, Sun was fined 10,000 yuan, or about $1,400, and his company fired him.

Drivers in Shanghai had been complaining for years about such sting operations. In most cases, drivers angrily pay the fines, which they consider a form of extortion.

But Sun decided to fight back. He chopped off the pinky finger on his left hand as a public way to declare his innocence. Soon, his story was picked up in several national newspapers. The story then spread online, with unregulated Internet bulletin boards, chat rooms and the popular instant messaging site QQ inundated with complaints of police harassment and support for Sun. ...

The Internet furor was so intense that the local government announced a new investigation. Sun won his case and did not have to pay the fine.
--Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post, on the cost of effective protest in China

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