Why China Needs Bloggers

The bad thing about working for a Chinese newspaper is having to sometimes proof articles that are are so blatantly propagandist or that so closely toe the party line, they make my eyes hurt. I love my job (a lot, seriously), but the amount of articles that I have to read regarding how much China is awesome and America sucks can grate on my nerves. It’s easy for most people to ignore, just don’t read it. But reading it, and reading it closely several times, is my job, so I can’t escape it.

Last week, an article ran basically blaming bloggers for social unrest, calling them absurd, irresponsible hypocrites. After ranting to my husband over dinner about what BS the article was, he encouraged me to write a rebuttal to the paper. So I did. On the advice of my friend Ray Hecht, I removed any direct reference to the previous article (no need to make enemies). To  my surprise, the newspaper ran my article with hardly any edits. The Shenzhen Daily originally ran the piece, “Why China Needs Bloggers,” in their newspaper, but I have copied it below for your convenience.

IN 2009, Kim Lee, the American wife of Crazy English founder Li Yang, was beaten by her husband for the last time. Covered in bruises, she went to the police station in Beijing to ask for help. But the police refused. “You and your husband are good people, just go home, calm down a little, and everything will be fine.” Everything was not fine.

Li Yang had made beating his wife a way of life. So Kim Lee went home, took pictures of her bruises and posted them to her Weibo account and her measly 23 followers. By the next day, 20,000 people saw what Li Yang had done. Within weeks, the world would know. By the end of 2013, Kim Lee was awarded a divorce, custody of her three children, and a comfortable alimony settlement. Kim Lee did not get justice because of the aid of the police; she got it because of social media.

In 2006, Tang Hui’s 11-year-old daughter was kidnapped by a sex trafficking ring. The police refused to help her. Tang eventually found her daughter on her own. The men who kidnapped and raped the girl were eventually brought to trial, but the case was badly managed and repeatedly bungled. After only two men were sentenced to death and the others only received jail sentences, Tang did not feel justice was served. She began using her right as a citizen to petition the court. The justice officials were incensed that she would speak out against them and had her arrested. She was sent to a “re-education facility” against her will without a trial and ordered to stay there for 18 months.

However, when bloggers and other Internet citizens found out about how Tang was being punished for exercising her legal rights, the outcry was massive. Tang was released within a week, eventually received a formal apology from the authorities in Hunan and a small settlement. Tang did not receive justice because she deserved it; she received justice thanks to all the bloggers out there who brought international attention to her case.

Many people think that bloggers are only troublemakers who harbor dissent and bring chaos to the nation, but this simply isn’t the case. Trouble, dissent and chaos are already here, and it is people who do not have power — the wives, the mothers, the street peddlers — who are the victims. However, thanks to the Internet and active bloggers, these victims are now being given a voice. When the government, the police, and the media refuse to help the people, it is the bloggers who speak out and get things done. Most bloggers are not exacerbating social unrest. They want what everyone wants — justice — and they use the freedom of the Internet to exact it.

Are there a few bad apples that spread falsehoods and want to undermine the State? Certainly. Not everyone who has a voice is worth listening to. But a few bad apples do not spoil the bunch. People need to learn how to evaluate sources, react with a calm head, and be trusted with all the facts. Obviously, people are going to be reactionary when they are only fed half-truths and whole lies.

The majority of bloggers seek truth, honesty and openness. What are people supposed to do when the government, the police, and the mainstream media refuse to help? Bloggers often fill a necessary void in people’s lives; they are on the front lines of justice every day.

What do you think? Are bloggers part of the problem or part of the solution?