Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day No Fun

Today is the start of a three-day holiday in China to celebrate the May Day Labour Day called Wu Yi, or May 1. It used to be seven days long, and last year I went to Hong Kong for a break. But this year the Chinese government has cut the holiday shorter, making many people disappointed they won't be able to have more time to relax.

And to make things worse, Midi, a top music festival in Beijing featuring many famous overseas and underground bands was canceled almost two weeks ago. It's usually held during the May Day holiday week and in the last few years it was gathering momentum in terms of popularity and getting coverage from international music media.

The municipal government gave the reason there wasn't enough security personnel on hand. But some think because of the heated demonstrations over Tibet and the torch relay, the government is worried about large groups of people gathering.

In the last few days I've seen more young men in uniform standing around on street corners. They're basically teenagers who don't have much to do and don't look strong enough to control a crowd. Nevertheless, their presence is supposed to deter any thoughts of stirring up trouble.

On top of that, Carrefour had to cancel its planned holiday sale at its outlets due to fears of more protests in front of its stores. Chinese state media reported today people stood in front of the French retail outlets in major Chinese cities and demonstrated against its supposed link to the Dalai Lama. There have been reports of Chinese customers berated for walking into the store, and an American guy was harassed as the crowd may have thought he was French.

However on a positive note, the smoking "ban" starts today in Beijing in most public places. We'll have to see how effectively it's enforced. Every time I go to the canteen, there's a "No Smoking" sign hung in the dining area and there's one man who insists on bringing his fag with him. I wonder if someone will tell him to butt out.

May Day's not giving much for people to celebrate... except that today is the two-year countdown to the Shanghai 2010 Expo.

Enough with the countdowns!!!

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