Over the course of the past few days, China has been home to a rare site, a protest attended by thousands of enraged Chinese citizens. These protests come on the heels of a corrupt land sell by local government officials in the village of Wukan in the Southeastern corner of the country. While the land sell only amounts to about 6.5 square miles of farm land, local officials failed to inform residence that their land was being sold. Following the sale, local farmers were promptly kicked off their land with no prior warning, which ultimately led to the upheaval. To add insult to injury, the citizens have not and do not expect to be reimbursed for their land. This phenomenon of government appropriation of privately owned land has long been a problem in China and the source of much frustration for Chinese citizens.
Chinese authorities have not released plans for the sold land but one can’t help but conjure memories of past land use decisions by the Chinese government. Most notably, the Three Gorges Dam, which displaced millions of people while local government officials embezzled government relocation funds. Though national authorities have their heart in the right place by providing relocation funds to displaced citizens and by building massive renewable energy projects, much of their effort is tarnished by corrupt local government officials.
Out of the corruption comes high unemployment rates, high homeless rates, and rampant social distain for local government, which in turn, can lead to environmental problems. These are all things that keep China from being a more sustainable country; though making a country as large as China more sustainable seems like an impossible task, China has the unique ability to make swift and drastic national changes due to their communist regime. While China has made respectable efforts to become environmentally sustainable, they have not realized the need for holistic sustainability, which optimizes social, economic, and environmental benefits.
The world witnessed China’s commitment to the environment when they essentially banned plastic bags overnight, which studies show, has prevented the use of more than 1.6 million tonnes of oil. China’s population makes such an immediate and noticeable impact on the world environment that their communist system seems to be the most effective method of government; but China has time and time again neglected to respect the natural human rights of their citizens.
While citizens have shown resistance to local authorities, they have not lost faith in the Chinese communist system. Amidst anger toward local officials at the recent protests were intermittent cheers of “Long live the Communist party!” Even with a suspect human rights record, national pride and communist support remain solid in China.
What the world has seen from China is a supposed commitment to becoming a more environmentally friendly country; however China continues to miss the target by exemplifying an unwillingness to take their citizens rights into account or stop local government corruption, which leads to further environmental issues. China has the unique power of being able to have complete government oversight of the planning and implementation of eco-friendly development project. But this means nothing until they quit overlooking the well-being of Chinese citizens. You cannot have sustainability without the consent of the people and these protests show that the Chinese government does not have the peoples consent.
Photo Credit: iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/article/2010/06/20100625122522lcnirellep0.8219416.html#axzz1hI2OxF00