Bloggers Unite!

It all started with the beating to death of a man filming a fight between villagers and local officials in China. The ensuing wave of protest from Chinese bloggers has forced authorities to arrest four people and call an investigation into 100 others.

Sounds like grass-root justice? In fact, such determined social “activism” is still quite uncommon in China (the government spares no effort when it comes to repress unsupportive digital voice). Surprisingly, many people who previously had little interest in politics become active in resisting Internet controls. And the phenomenon doesn’t seem to stop there. Chinese netizens now start complaining when the government blocks Flickr and other popular entertainment sites. One of them even sued a branch of China Telecom for contract violation because of the service provider’s unacknowledged restrictions on Web content. 

So, why are Chinese users becoming more daring? Is it because they have the feeling of having achieved a critical mass (210 million users at the end of 2007) or because the number of simultaneous “battles” (blogs, online videos, instant messaging, etc.) that the Chinese Net censors have to wage opens enough room for dissent?

P.S.: China Internet Network Information Center (a government-run agency surveying Internet users) is predicting that the amount of new blog accounts will drop (!) in the first half year of 2008. Anyone wants to take a bet?