07/14/2012, 00.00
CHINA
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Web generation born in the 1990s, new hope for democracy in China

In Shifang (Sichuan), thousands of students took to the streets to block the construction of a heavy metal plant. The protest was organized through social networks and gathered support throughout the country. Parents and teachers push Children and students to fight for their rights despite the risk of arrests and beatings.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Thanks to the internet and social networks, young Chinese born in the 1990s are discovering the values of democracy, freedom and human rights, and becoming new potential actors in the fight against the regime in Beijing, after the Tiananmen generation. In early July, thousands of young students in Shifang (Sichuan) supported by their parents, but also by thousands of peers across the country were able to block the construction of a plant for the processing of heavy metals considered highly polluting. Beginning on July 1, the protest went on for several days with dozens of wounded and arrested. On 2 July, more than 10 thousand people, many from other regions of the country blocked the entrance to the construction site, forcing the authorities to stop the project. The police tried to disperse the crowd with batons and tear gas, beating and arresting hundreds of people, mostly high school students. Some of those arrested are under 15 years of age.

The protest has turned into a national case, because it involves they very generation that has always been deemed spoilt, the generation that is the living expression of the one-child policy, prostrated by economic development, Internet and television. But what has stirred these young people to such an extent that they will risk their lives to defend their rights?

Some of the young students report that they were made aware of the dangers of the project during a lesson of their professor, who had called the factory a cancer for the entire the county. "In the beginning - says a student of Qiyi Middle School - no one really paid attention to what he was saying, but when returned home I saw that the blogger had put thousands of information about the project, inviting people to protest, proposing to organize a demonstration on July 1. " The news of the event spread like wildfire among young high school in Shifang and thousands chose to join in, especially encouraged by their parents and teachers, despite the risk of being arrested and beaten by police.

Xiao Jie, 15, one of the students injured in police charges, he says that until recently spent his time smoking, drinking beer and playing computer games. "As a student - he says - I've also chosen to demonstrate against the factory. One of my school mates was arrested and released at two in the morning on July 3."

Han Han, one of the most popular bloggers on the continent, is among those who praised the role of teenagers and young people in protests in Shifang. He likens them to the post-80s generation, who had rediscovered a love for the defense of human rights going to work as volunteers in the villages affected by the earthquake in Wenchuan County in 2008. "Just as the earthquake changed the point of view of the post-'80s  generation - he says - the Shifang incident has had a similar effect for the next one."

Wang Dan, one of the leaders of the movement in Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement in 1989, stresses that what happened in Shifang is a sign of hope for democracy and defense of human rights in China. "I think - said - that the young Chinese, especially the new generations, will have a key role in bringing China to democracy and respect for human rights in the future."

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