To protest city’s lighting project, Guangzhou people go bald
At 1:10 a.m. on April 27, a net user who goes by the name “Little Swallow” posted on Sina Microblog a picture of a shaven-headed man holding a banner that reads “Brain is Brighter”. Within less than 20 hours, over 4000 net users shared and commented on the post.
The real name of “Little Swallow” is Peng Yanhui, a resident in Guangzhou, the capital city of southern Guangdong province. Peng shaved his head to make a protest over the city’s exorbitant plan of spending 150 million yuan (US$23 million) on upgrading artificial lighting, including street lights, advertising lights, neon and other bright and pulsing lights, and making the city dazzle. He said his campaign of collecting (pictures of) 1,000 shaven heads is intended for bringing the cause to the attention of the public and the government, and hopefully stop the multi-million dollar facelift. (Read how citizens of Nanjing protest felling of city’s towering trees on microblog)
The city government of Guangzhou announced the 150-million-yuan illumination project in an effort to maintain and reinforce the bright cityscape originally prepared for the Asians Games, which dropped the curtain on November 27, 2010. According to the estimates made by the government, in addition to the preliminary investment, the lighting project, if put in place, will incur an electricity bill of at least 60 million a year.
“The project itself is hardly convincing. Will Guangzhou truly become more beautiful with 150 million as decoration?” Net user “Xiaolei”, who joined the “shaven heads movement” questioned. He believes that street lights are necessary, as it enables city residents to go out at night, whereas the lighting project is neither tantamount to street lights nor necessary.
Guangzhou has experienced power shortages in the past few years. During summer, which is the high season for power use, high-energy consumption industries and enterprises were ordered not to operate during peak time. Some of them were even asked to introduce multiple shifts and power limits to help ease power shortage. However, the lighting project that Guangzhou’s city government works on will cost 50,000 yuan (US$7,600) worth of electricity an hour.
“The lighting project will not only waste resources, but causes light pollution as well. Why not spend the sum of money on improving living standards of people in the city? What’s more, how can an issue concerning environmental protection lack in environmental impact assessment?” “Little Swallow” Peng wrote in his blog post, in which he pointed out the illumination project might have violated Provisions of Guangzhou Municipality on the Management of Investment.
“Queries on environmental issues and the government’s policymaking do not have to be tough and sharp. Instead, we can try to solve it in an easy and relaxed manner,” said Peng. He said the idea of “shaven heads” popped up during the brainstorming with several microblog users.
“To our surprise, it got 4,000 shares within less than 20 hours. Most netizens voiced objection. astrophiles in Guangzhou in particular detest the project,” Peng said.
Peng stressed emphatically that even though the “shaven heads movement” seems very unorthodox, he did not do this to seek publicity. He simply wished to facilitate effective communication between the public and the government.
Until today, Peng had successfully collected pictures of 35 shaven heads and posted them all in his microblog. Two of them are women. Xiao Lei said what touched them most was that many parents sent pictures of their little children’s shaven heads. One wrote, “Even though the kid doesn’t understand it completely, the environment belongs to everyone. In order for the living environment of the future generations to get better, I, as a parent, am willing to join in on my kid’s behalf.”
Peng said he had submitted the electronic form of his call for putting a stop to the illumination project to the mayor’s inbox. He is awaiting a reply.