Net produces new generation of China activists

Anita Chang
Associated Press
3/19/2010

BEIJING – Lin Xiuying believes her daughter bled to death after being gang-raped two years ago by a group of thugs that had ties to the police in their southern Chinese town.

For more than a year, the illiterate mother appealed to various government departments in Fujian province’s Mingqin county, pleading for someone to take a closer look at the death of 25-year-old Yan Xiaoling that police blamed on an ectopic pregnancy.

Lin, 50, was sobbing outside a government office last summer when she met self-taught legal expert Fan Yanqiong. Fan took down the details of the case from Lin and then posted them online. Two others, You Jingyou and Wu Huaying, spoke to the mother and posted their video interview online.

On Friday, the three were in court awaiting a verdict on charges of making false accusations, which carries a sentence of up to three years in jail.

It is the latest example of Chinese Internet users being targeted for their budding grass-roots activism — ordinary people spreading the word about grievances from every corner of the country with postings on Twitter, microblogs and other Web sites.

“Netizens are using the Internet to talk about injustice,” said Liu Xiaoyuan, You’s lawyer. “But local officials just use their public power to suppress them.”

Dozens of bloggers showed up outside Mawei Distrist People’s Court on Friday in Fuzhou city where the verdict was to be announced, tweeting constantly and posting photos from the scene online. They reportedly were met by more than 100 uniformed and plainclothes police. The case was indefinitely postponed.

China blocks online materials it deems to be harmful or pornographic, which frequently includes information that contradicts the views of the ruling Communist Party. Such restrictions prompted Internet giant Google to announce in January that it may close China-based Google.cn because it no longer wanted to cooperate with Beijing’s Internet censorship.

But there is a vibrant community of tech-savvy users who can easily hop over the “Great Firewall” that blocks access to sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. They are a minority of the 384 million people online in China but among the most vocal: young, educated, liberal-minded and unafraid of questioning the Communist government.

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