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Reflections on China's National Day

By S.L. Shen, United Press International
October 03, 2008

Beijing, China — This has been a year of great glories and great sufferings for China, and it is no wonder that the Chinese people greeted National Day on Oct. 1 with mixed feelings. The 7-day “Golden Week” holiday that marks the anniversary is a time to spend with family, either at home or by traveling. In Beijing the shopping areas, urban and suburban scenic spots – and of course the subways – were packed with visitors coming to the capital from around the country. Their faces reflected excitement and pleasure.

But for many the crowds spoiled the fun. At Pingguoyuan subway station, the suburban start of the inbound Line 1, passengers were kept waiting, trapped by railings in 200-meter-long lines, and only allowed in at intervals of about five minutes. Some left to seek other transportation, while others endured pushing and shoving to finally get onto the train – a total breakdown of the rules the authorities worked hard to instill before the Olympics.

In Hong Kong, a small group of protesters led by Legislative Councilor Leung Kwok-hung criticized the Chinese authorities for attempting to cover up the problem of toxic chemicals in China-made milk products and for mishandling investigations into jerry-built schools in areas destroyed by the May 12 earthquake.

The group also complained that the Shenzhou 7 space mission was merely an “image project” and a huge waste of public resources that could have been used to provide aid to homeless earthquake victims or compensation to thousands of “petitioners” – people fighting against injustice at the hands of authorities.

While thousands of Chinese spent the holiday in the sunshine enjoying all kinds of activities, their compatriots online were inclined to be gloomy and critical.

The Beijing newspaper Xinjingbao published a National Day editorial titled, “Today, let’s brush up on the value of being Chinese.” Netizen responses were very critical.

The relaxed Golden Week period offered a good opportunity to review the value and meaning of being Chinese, the newspaper said, which is especially significant in this transformational period of the country’s history.

In a positive tone, the article reflected on the painful incidents of this year, including the snow disaster in March, the earthquake in May and the toxic milk crisis in September, as well as the successful and joyful moments of the Beijing Summer Olympics and Paralympics in August and the Shenzhou 7 manned space mission last week, in which a Chinese astronaut walked in space for the first time.

The editorial also pointed out that this National Day marked the 30th year since China began its era of reforms. It said it had been an era of the advancement of human dignity, destiny and rights, spurring the people to surpass themselves and seek real strength through learning and reformation.

The editorial ended with a quote from Premier Wen Jiabao, saying it is not great men, but great people that write history – an insight he gained from reading “Meditations” by the second century Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius. “Through sufferings and happiness, this country will certainly find its ultimate value, causing us to look up and consider the future all together at such a moment,” the article said.

One netizen responded to this conclusion saying, “What a great saying!” Another added, “Yes, but it’s only words.”

Some people responded to this article on the Internet by expressing their pride and happiness at being Chinese. This posting received 25 positive and 535 negative votes, however.

One netizen who expressed feelings of shame at being Chinese on National Day got 364 positive and only 10 negative responses. Another expressed the hope that he would not be Chinese in his next life.

One writer used a metaphor to describe Chinese citizens’ relations with the authorities: “Other children’s parents are kind and good, but mine beat me, scold me and abuse me; others’ parents would like to help me, but mine say, ‘It’s none of their business,’ so that others’ parents have no choice but to see me suffer. I love you – others’ parents!”

Another netizen said he was originally very proud of being Chinese, but after witnessing the democracy movement of 1989 and the difficultly students had in getting support from workers and peasants, he felt heartbroken. He said he sensed the servility of his people and foresaw a future in which ordinary people would experience misfortune and difficulty.

Another wrote, “Today, as a Chinese, I feel sad, for our country has been kidnapped by a band of robbers and no longer belongs to her people.”

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