Sunday, May 06, 2012

Democratization in China

The Washington Post has a nice article ("With Chen Guangcheng news on Twitter, China’s censors lost control") about the role of Twitter and other Internet media on the case of the blind activist Chen Guangcheng.

In both the case of Chen Guangcheng and the previous upheaval about the arrest of Chongqing Party boss Bo Xilai the Internet was the first place where the news spread and many new facts first came to light on the Internet:

When Chen was driven from the U.S. Embassy to a nearby hospital and made a telephone call from the van to The Washington Post, the news broke first on Twitter. It was Chen’s friend Zeng Jinyan, another activist, who first informed the world via Twitter that Chen had been left alone by U.S. officials at the hospital and was afraid. Zeng also tweeted that thugs in Shandong province, where Chen is from, had threatened to beat his wife to death, and that Chen wanted to leave China for the United States.

And the next day, Zeng broadcast on Twitter that she was being followed by plainclothes police and had been placed under house arrest. She even warned journalists not to try calling her.

A particularly dramatic moment came Thursday when Chen — isolated in his Beijing hospital room but with a cellphone at hand — called into a U.S. House of Representatives hearing on the handling of his case and expressed concern for his family left behind in Shandong.

All these new technological options are nice. Yet I believe that the most important factor in what is happening in China is that as the country grows richer people demand different things from their leaders.

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