Image credit: Radio Free Asia

Shaoyang, the birthplace of Mao Zedong, was rocked by demonstrations and violent clashes after the local government began a city-wide operation on August 1 to ban two-wheeled electric vehicles, including motorcycles, electric bikes, and mopeds. Thousands of owners who parked and used electrical vehicles without city license plates were penalized and had their vehicles impounded or seized.

The ban stemmed from the city government’s campaign to rectify the “chronic and persistent traffic problems” caused by electric vehicles. On August 7, thousands of residents gathered outside the city government and police transport bureaus, requesting the return of their property and the suspension of electrical bicycle ban. They also demanded the city government reopen traffic lanes for motorcycles and allow bikes from outside of the city to enter. Protesters reportedly chased after transport police officers and beat them up. Although news of the protests was censored on mainland’s social media, images and footage made their way to overseas Twitter accounts.

The city government was forced to relent on the ban just one day after the protests. Electrical bicycles are an essential part of everyday life in China, particularly for people with low or middle income. Because they are economical and have lower emissions than cars, they remain a preferred option among commuters in Shaoyang where transportation infrastructure is inadequate.