At 8:00 a.m. on 17 March 2003, when China was dominated by SARS, the day before the US army launched an attack on Iraq, a meeting was held in the Business Department of Gansu Province (BDG), involving some of the high officers from the government. At the meeting, an announcement was made about the assignment and dismissal of certain personnel. L was assigned as president of the commerce department of Gansu Province. Immediately after the meeting and the departure of the participants, more than 100 old cadres, workers and veterans from the provincial Export and Import Package Company, which is a subordinate company of the commerce department of Gansu Province, surrounded the entrance of the main building of the commerce department of Gansu Province. They held up banners and chanted angry slogans, demanding that the government pay their salaries, which they had not received for years, and settle their medical fees, which had also not been paid for years. They declared that, if their reasonable requirements were not met, they would continue their protest at the provincial government centre and at the centre of Gansu provincial committee, some even announcing that they would attempt suicide in case of the failure of their protest. More and more people turned up to watch the protest. Occasionally, some protesters lost patience and the situation spiralled almost out of control and had reached a critical point. Confronted with such an unexpected occurrence, the newly assigned president was deeply impressed and somewhat astonished. Although he had experience of different posts, he had never encountered such a situation, which by then was inevitable and had to be solved. In the 6-hour-long talks with the representatives of the protesters, there

were still angry slogans and exchanges of words. President L explained clearly and patiently the national and provincial policy and strategy concerning what the protesters demanded. He told the representatives that he would give them a satisfactory answer based on the factual investigations and the government’s financial situation. Seeing the sincere attitude of the president, the representatives agreed to retreat and wait for a solution. The closed door of the BDG was open. The critical moment was over and everyone began to leave, but they declared that they would come again if their problems were not resolved.