Thursday, March 19, 2009
The price of a life in China
In this morning's South China Morning Post, under the headline "250,000 cameras watching you in Guangzhou", the unidentified SCMP "staff reporter" describes a report from the city's Public Security Bureau, or police. The report discusses the 2008 Chinese New Year snowstorms, when at least half a million people were stranded at the Guangzhou train station. During that event, a recent Guangzhou police report "said that given that only one female worker was trampled to death in the days of huge crowds, the surveillance system had been a great aid to the government's handling of the emergency." I often cite the relative calm of the Guangzhou train station crowds when I argue that China's migrant workers are not rabble rousers. Can you imagine half a million people in America or France stranded at a train station (or a football stadium) for days on end without things getting violent? I hadn't realized that a woman died at the train station. That would have been big news in the US (and it was covered by the Chinese press), but in China, the fact that only one woman died is viewed as a qualified success.