It’s not a shocking display of nude women writhing in fake blood a la PETA, but last weekend Chinese activists went about as far as they could without getting into serious trouble — riding the subway sans pants to promote a low-carbon lifestyle, according to The Guardian newspaper.
About 20 Chinese climate campaigners took inspiration from recent pants-less subway rides orchestrated by U.S. group Improv Everywhere, but added a message: “Save the Earth.”
The activists, who had never met before the protest, quietly read newspapers and listened to music while wearing nothing but shirts and underwear during an otherwise unremarkable 40-minute ride on a Guangdong subway train.
Some bore signs or scrawled slogans like "Low-carbon life — free and easy" on their bare thighs.
"Of course I feel a little bit shy, after all we are Chinese. But I think it is OK to promote environmental protection in this way," one protester told reporters.
Given China’s tendency to be tough on protesters — particularly those employing scandalous means of getting attention — the activists expected arrest, but were greeted by the media instead.
Of course, this light-hearted stunt pales in comparison to recent environmental protests like the one held by 1,000 middle-class citizens of Guangzhou last November, who were angry about plans to build a trash incinerator near their homes.
Organizer Liang Shuxin says the pants-less subway ride was important nonetheless, getting people to discuss their lifestyle choices and carbon footprint and realize that small actions can make a big difference.
"Our government has been trying to promote a low-carbon economy, but bureaucratic action is not enough; every citizen needs to get involved,” Liang told The Guardian.