Protest breaks out in my old Beijing apartment building

Every year tens of thousands of mass protests break out in China. Some, like environmental protests that broke out in early July in the southwestern city of Shifang, feature tens of thousands of people, police brutality, and extensive coverage in the media, or at least on China's microblogs.

Yet a "mass" incident can have as little as three or five people (there appears to be no agreed upon definition), and the majority are sparsely attended marches, peaceful mini-protests, disputed car accidents, or glorified street brawls, the kind of things a Chinese urban resident will walk by, gawk at for five minutes, and then keep moving.

What is rarer is a mass incident involving foreigners, and so I was tickled to see that my old Beijing apartment building -- commonly known by its English name Just Make Plaza, likely a failed appropriation of the Nike slogan--was the site of its very own mass incident, when landlords and residents protesting on Monday that their electricity had been shut off.  Global Times reported:

The protest started between 7 and 8 pm when landlords from the nearby Jiezuo Dasha apartment complex parked cars in the center of the street and put tables and chairs in the middle of the road. They held up a banner reading "Give us back our water and electricity, we want a normal life."

Foreigners tend to get better treatment from Chinese police, wary of provoking an international incident, and the dispute seems to mostly have resolved itself by now, but Global Times did report that "police were checking the identities of foreigners on the street."

For pictures of the dispute, here's a story from City Weekend, a local expat magazine.


Human Rights Watch blasts Yale for Singapore rules

In a press release issued this morning, Human Rights Watch slammed Yale University, criticizing the administration for "betraying the spirit of the university as a center of open debate and protest by giving away the rights of its students." The statement indicts Yale's agreement to enforce Singapore's restrictive laws regarding freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly on its new joint-venture with the National University of Singapore -- the first new college to bear the New Haven university's name in three centuries.

The Yale-NUS college's new president, Pericles Lewis, has repeatedly defended the decision, arguing that students "are going to be totally free to express their views"  before admitting the campus "won't have partisan politics or be forming political parties on campus." Unsurprisingly, Yale students and faculty (whose 22 registered student political organizations will be barred from founding sister organizations on the NUS-Yale campus), were less than reassured. Already riled by accusations last spring that special confidentiality arrangements for General Stanley MacCrystal's class were a violation of intellectual freedom, student newspapers have openly mocked the administration's decision while professors have organized protests warning the restrictions limit academic freedom and negatively influence faculty hiring and research programs.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, agreed, calling Singapore's laws restricting political groups and demonstrations "draconian" before warning "Yale may find that many of the freedoms taken for granted over its 300 year history are against the law in Singapore. If it truly values those freedoms, and expects its students to, it will need to fight for them."  

Something for U.S. universities to keep in mind as more and more expand into international campuses.

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