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Outrage In China As Concrete Cones Keep Homeless Away From Underpasses



GUANGZHOU - For a country like China, founded on the precepts of fairness and justice, where the proletariat are supposedly the masters, this wasn't supposed to happen.

Thanks to photographs posted this week by a Chinese blogger, we see the space under a viaduct in Guangzhou city covered with sharp protruding mini concrete pyramids. The nasty-looking teeth-like cones are 10 centimeters high and cover the whole area underneath the elevated road.

Obviously they have been put there so those on the margins of society give no thought to congregating there, even if some manage to sleep in a narrow place nearby: see photo below.

After the news was disclosed it immediately spread across China and caused a public firestorm. The majority of people are appalled at the inhumanity of the Guangzhou authorities as well as their contempt for basic human rights. One blogger asked: "If the authority has the time to do such things, why can't it use the energy and money in helping these people instead?" Gucheng.com reported that another commentator added: "Who gives you the right of using tax-payers' money to make life difficult for people?"

After days of public indignation, the Guangzhou Municipal Construction Committee's official finally admitted that the cement cones in several locations of Guangzhou were put there 10 years ago. Originally they were indeed intended "to prevent tramps from living there", according to the Nanfang Daily.

According to many bloggers who responded to the incident, many other Chinese cities apart from Guangzhou use the same "eyesores', as many put it, to fend off the destitute.

Like those all over the world, China's major cities are full of the impoverished. Often they are migrants who come from the rural areas, and end up stranded on the streets without being able to find any work. The Chinese authorities used to implement an administrative procedure of forced custody and repatriation. They detained people who didn't have a residence permit (the hukou) or a temporary living permit and returned them to where they could legally live or work. The regulation was abolished in 2003 under public pressure after a poor chap called Sun Zhigang was beaten to death while in custody because he happened not to have the right papers on him when searched.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Putinism Without Putin? USSR 2.0? Clean Slate? How Kremlin Succession Will Play Out

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, political commentators have consistently returned to the question of Putin's successor. Russia expert Andreas Umland foreshadows a potentially tumultuous transition, resulting in a new power regime. Whether this is more or less democratic than the current Putinist system, is difficult to predict.

A kid holds up a sign with Putin's photograph over the Russian flag

Gathering in Moscow to congratulate Russia's President Vladimir Putin on his birthday.

Andreas Umland


STOCKHOLM — The Kremlin recently hinted that Vladimir Putin may remain as Russia's president until 2030. After the Constitution of the Russian Federation was amended in 2020, he may even extend his rule until 2036.

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However, it seems unlikely that Putin will remain in power for another decade. Too many risks have accumulated recently to count on a long gerontocratic rule for him and his entourage.

The most obvious and immediate risk factor for Putin's rule is the Russian-Ukrainian war. If Russia loses, the legitimacy of Putin and his regime will be threatened and they will likely collapse.

The rapid annexation of Crimea without hostilities in 2014 will ultimately be seen as the apex of his rule. Conversely, a protracted and bloody loss of the peninsula would be its nadir and probable demise.

Additional risk factors for the current Russian regime are related to further external challenges, for example, in the Caucasus. Other potentially dangerous factors for Putin are economic problems and their social consequences, environmental and industrial disasters, and domestic political instability.

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