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Human Rights & Social Issues

China’s online crackdown prompts outrage: social media empowers environmental activism


Yang Hui

Yang Hui

Activists like Deng Fei demonstrate that “even the simplest Weibo message can become a movement,” writes the FT’s Leslie Hook:

Earlier this year, Deng asked his followers to post photographs of polluted rivers and lakes in their hometowns. The outpouring of images prompted a series of press articles and shamed several local governments into cleaning up their waterways.

Today, Deng, a journalist at Phoenix Weekly, a news magazine based in Hong Kong, spends the bulk of his time running the collection of environmental and social organisations that he has founded – and funded – largely through online support. His most recent project is the China Water Safety Foundation, launched last month.

“No matter where you are in China, within four seconds you can post something to the whole world,” he says. “I like to say that Weibo is God’s greatest gift to the Chinese people. It has given us more power and more rights, and allows us to come together quickly.”

The Communist authorities recently introduced new legislation that in effect criminalizes online dissent, as part of a wider campaign launched by President Xi Jinping to stifle calls for liberalisation.

China Digital Times asks: Is 16-Year-Old “Rumour” Poster’s Release a Hollow Victory?

Monday saw the end of the week-long detention of Yang Hui (above), a Gansu teenager accused of causing protests by challenging the official explanation for a local man’s death. Liberal microbloggers quickly rallied around Yang, and by Monday night appeared to have secured both his release and the suspension of the local police chief. From Andrew Jacobs at The New York Times:

On Monday, the police in Zhangjiachuan Hui Autonomous County apparently bowed to public pressure and released Yang Zhong, a middle school student who was among the first people to be charged under new regulations that criminalize the spreading of online rumors with up to three years in jail. [See more via CDT.] The authorities contend the boy had simply confessed to his crimes and served his punishment. Hours after his release, he posted online a photograph of himself flashing a victory sign. His shirt read, “Make the Change.”

Rights defenders and free-speech advocates have embraced his release as a small but significant victory against what many here see as a draconian campaign against dissent that has ensnared dozens of people over the past two months. Those arrested include Xu Zhiyong, a prominent lawyer who had called on officials to publicly disclose their financial assets, and Xue Manzi, a Chinese-American investor who often railed against injustice to his 12 million microblog followers. [Source]

Dissidents Xu Zhiyong and Hu Jia are listed among the Financial Times’s 25 Chinese to Watch:

Xu Zhiyong has long been at the forefront of the fight for the rule of law in China. The lawyer’s latest and biggest project is an activist network which aims to spread the concept of citizenry in China. Xu has potential as a political figure outside the Communist party but that is obviously disconcerting to Chinese leaders – Xu was arrested last month.

It is more than a decade since Hu Jia helped to expose an Aids epidemic in central China that had been caused by a government-backed blood-trading scheme. Since then, the activist has taken up many more cases ranging from environmental protection to petitioners’ rights. Now 40, Hu is one of China’s most outspoken dissidents.

Source: Democracy Digest – “China’s  online crackdown prompts outrage: social media empowers environmental activism”
 

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