Some of the most opinionated people I’ve ever met have been old. Old and cranky, old and wise, old and just old for the sake of being old. Old people, by and large, have earned their opinions.
But not in China. In China, when your house gets demolished before the Olympics and you’re sent to a rickety apartment on the outskirts of Beijing, you do what any good Chinese citizen does. You stay quiet. Or you get manual labor re-education for a year. It’s your choice, really, even if you’re a frail 70-year-old woman:
Both walk with the help of a cane, and Ms. Wang is blind in one eye. Their grievance, receiving insufficient compensation when their homes were seized for redevelopment, is perhaps the most common complaint among Chinese displaced during the country’s long streak of fast economic growth.
But the Beijing police still sentenced the two women to an extrajudicial term of “re-education through labor” this week for applying to hold a legal protest in a designated area in Beijing, where officials promised that Chinese could hold demonstrations during the Olympic Games.
“I feel very sad and angry because we’re only asking for the basic right of living and it’s been six years, but nobody will do anything to help,” Mr. Li said.
Most people thought the typical Chinese repression would cease during the Olympic Games, but instead, China has increased its severity. What’s worse, they’ve done so while setting up designated “protest zones” supposedly designed for quiet, nonviolent protest. Those protest zones are notoriously quiet, leading some to believe that China made people apply to protest so the government could arrest them in advance. Which is actually really smart, when you think about it.
But of course, it’s not that the Chinese are afraid of a little dissent. No! It’s that these two lovely, cane-restricted 70-year-old women are needed for some very important government works project in the hinterland. What an honor! Congratulations, ladies — vacation comes early this year! Now you will go to sleep, or I will put you to sleep. You’re in the Sichuan Province now, grandma.