AGI Top 12 in 2012: Civil Protest in Asia

AGI recaps the highlights of 2012, which we think made an impact and will continue to drive change in the coming years. These highlights and events are picked by AGI editorial team from fields of business, politics and culture across Asia.

From record- breaking demonstrations against nuclear power in Japan, to dramatic victories for China’s fledgling labour reform movement, 2012 was a significant year for civil protest in East Asia. In the wake of last year’s Arab Spring, many wondered if Asia regions would be the next hot zones for sweeping social change. Whist (to date) no such movement emerged, there were certainly some significant acts of democratic dissent across the region.

National Anti-nuclear Power Protests in Japan

This year saw regular gatherings of up to tens of thousands of people, massing together in protest to against the Japanese government’s plan to continue with nuclear power, in spite of the devastating Fukushima earthquake disaster, which  saw parts of the country declared nuclear no-go zones. Dubbed the Hydrangea Revolution, the anger and fear of a nation dreading another Fukushima may well have an impact on future energy policy in this nuclear dependent society.

Nascent Labour Reform Movements in China

With huge winter sales expected, Apple executives will likely be hoping all reports regarding issues with suppliers, notably Foxconn, will be swept under therug. In the aftermath of a rash of suicides and reports of deplorable working conditions across its supply chain, Apple has been vocal in its support for reform in its plants, if not implementation. Thousands of Foxconn workers have engaged in acts of protest in response to these continuing labour law violations. According to China Labour Watch, across the board “young workers are less willing to sacrifice their personal lives for meagre savings, and more aware of their rights.” Apple’s inaction will undoubtedly result in further unrest as the workforce takes labour reform into their its own hands.
China’s next generation is determined not to be the downtrodden workshop of the world, and it is the hope of many that corporate giants will have no choice but to take notice.

Rejection of Communist Doctrine in Hong Kong

The implementation of ‘“Moral and National Education’” classes in Hong Kong was met with widespread anger and nationwide protest over fears that
these classesthey would serve as nothing more thant ‘“brainwashing’” vehicles for the Communist Party of China. Literature used as a key resource for the from the classes in question spoke negatively about Western democratic models, but played up achievements by the Communist State and Party. Although the Hong Kong government refused to bow to these demands, it has granted schools autonomy over whether they choose to teach these controversial classes.

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