We hear about the city of Kunming a lot this month. In early May, thousands of local residents in Kunming railed to protest at plans of a petrochemical plant. Local government said they would re-consider the plan, but weeks have passed and calls for more protests to pressure the government can still be heard. To prevent another “mass incident” from happening and to “maintain stability,” Kunming government released a series of preventive measures that many Chinese netizens considered as “desperate” and “stupid.”
During the weekend, Kunming was reported to restrict the sales of face masks and white T-shirts. Government-issued ID is required at the point of purchase and only one mask/T-shirt is allowed per person. In some parts of the city, the sales of T-shits were banned all together. In addition, printing services in the city is banned from making copies of materials that are related to the petrochemical plant.
Real-name registration form for face mask sales
Face masks have almost become a symbol of NIMBY protests in China. During the Kunming protest in early May, many protesters wore masks with “No PX” slogan to shield their identity and to promote their massages at the same time. Protesters also often wore T-shirts printed or painted with slogans.
But to restrict people’s access to masks and T-shirts won’t stop people from voicing their opinions. Kunming government’s moves seem to achieve just the opposite. Currently, #Kunming restricts T-shirt sales# is the second top trending topic on Sina Weibo, China’s most dynamic microblog service. And guess what, netizens grew even angrier with Kunming government. One netizen maple-捷 commented: “Only a retarded government can think of actions like this. In this country, there is no most stupid government, only more stupid government.”
Sadly, this is not the first time when the Chinese government used what seemed to be ridiculous measures to “maintain stability.” During China’s 18th Party Congress last year, ID was required for purchases of knives and remote-controlled toy planes in Beijing. Taxi and buses in the country’s capital were told to “seal their windows” by shutting all electronic window locks and dissembling all manual window handles.
Once again, netizens were asking: “Why the fear?” One netizen commented: “You can ban mask sales, but you cannot ban people’s voices. Even if you can ban people’s voices, you cannot ban people’s minds.”
But, you know, behind all the fuss could be Taobao, China’s biggest online retail website.