Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Occupy Men's Toilets!

As reported in Financial Times...

Chinese Toilet Campaign Falls Foul of Censors

By Rahul Jacob and Zhou Ping In Hong Kong

A Chinese campaign for more women’s toilets has fallen foul of the country’s censors, in another sign of official skittishness ahead of this year’s leadership transition.

References to the protest, dubbed Occupy Men’s Toilets, have been blocked on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. China’s internet police have also deleted information on the group’s next planned protest , scheduled for Wednesday in central Henan province.

On Sunday, activists occupied men’s toilets in Beijing, preventing their use and demanding that twice as many public facilities be built for women. Authorities pledged to increase the number of women’s toilets in Guangzhou, capital of southern Guangdong province, after a similar protest there last week.

The protests were organised by a 23-year-old woman, who uses the pseudonym Li Maizi, after she was stuck in a long queue for the bathroom at a conference in Guangzhou. According to Ms Li, Sunday’s protest in Beijing was well attended by local media but generated no subsequent coverage.

“The event itself is not politically sensitive. I have no idea what is going on,” Ms Li said, adding she and other activists were phoning and texting people about Wednesday’s Henan protest – and others planned later in the cities of Wuhan and Xi’an.

Chinese authorities are alert to signs of social unrest ahead of its once-in-a-decade leadership change, expected in October. Censors have been particularly active since last year, after an anonymous online appeal for a “Jasmine Revolution” inspired by the Arab spring. While the call went unanswered, online references to the flower were blocked and police harassed bewildered florists.

Undaunted by the scrutiny, Ms Li is still pressing her original demand that Guangzhou should build twice as many public toilets for women as men. They have so far promised to build three female facilities for every two male facilities.

The protest was inspired by similar demonstrations in Hong Kong and Taiwan dating back to the 1990s. “It’s 2012 and it’s time mainland women fought for themselves,” Ms Li said.

Guangzhou students have organised several other innovative protests over the past year, targeting what they said was wasteful lighting of the city’s riverfront buildings and unnecessary refurbishment of public transit platforms.



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