Protest

Blogging is difficult in China. My blogging platform, WordPress, is banned in China. For me to be able to update, I have to launch a program called Tor which allows me to bypass the Great Firewall of China. It is slow, and sometimes it just doesn’t want to work. I’ve maintained a mirror of my blog on Mindsay so that I’d have a backup in case of Tor failure, and also so local friends can read my blog without using proxy websites. Today I’ve discovered a new problem.

In the Southern China city of Xiamen, protests have been taking place over the planned construction of a chemical plant. The local residents don’t want another polluting factory disrupting their health and lives. I am far from Xiamen, so I am relying on the Internet to get information, but from what I have read, this protest sounds so awesome. It is a very remarkable thing that the locals are standing up for something they truly believe. Their numbers are so great that their message cannot be hidden from the people.

Protests are not unheard of in China, in fact, they are happening more and more. Peasants unhappy over land grabs, women upset over forced abortions and sterilizations, hospitals attacked for refusing to treat patients without cash-in-hand are a few of the recent protests I’ve heard about. The things is, you don’t usually hear about them. They are squashed as soon as possible. Protesters are dragged away, shot at and detained. The media just doesn’t cover them. Until now. Until blogging and SMS messages, Flickr photo sites and YouTube video upload. More than ever, Chinese are waging Web 2.0 protests. Click on the Web 2.0 link and be astounded. It is an amazing thing to see these people letting their opinions be known.

Of course, this doesn’t sit well with the local officials and the central government. Action must be taken. The Internet must be filtered, censored, blocked. As of today, all of my photos on the photo site Flickr are showing up as empty boxes. (Without the Tor program – with the Tor program I can see them.) This means, that even on my Mindsay blog, which is not blocked, my photos will not be seen.

I am not so concerned about being blocked. My voice is heard by friends and family, mostly in the US and other countries. I am a foreigner who chooses to live here. But for the Chinese voices that need to be heard in China, the filtering and blocking is monumental. Once again, the people are being silenced. Controlled. But for how long?

Steven Banick made this comment on Global Voices, and it sums up nicely my thoughts:

…for sure, the authorities are “cracking down” and heads are rolling, but holding back the inexorable tide of the information age is like that li’l ol Dutch boy…

Yes, this may sound naive at the moment, but for those of us who remember Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the economic and “human interest” changes with China are stunning. Several hundred million middle class people increasingly more engaged in/on the world market, traveling, et al, will not be able to be “held back” in the long run.

As General Patton said, “fixed fortifications are a monument to man’s stupidity.” Thus it will be with Chinese firewalls, bit by bit (yes with some setbacks) as China modernizes, seeks, questions, stirs the pot…

So here is my own protest: One of my favorite photos, taken in Tibet, of a little monk who stood strong against his minders who wanted him to go back into the monastery and stop playing with the ram who had wandered close to the monastery entrance. He was mischievous and wanted to play. He was defiant. (I’m not sure that is what monks are supposed to do.) He wanted it his way.

Little Monk

These protesters have my highest praise. Good for you. Stay strong and do it your way.

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