Some people measure their blog’s success in views and visitors. For others, the measurement might be the number of armed policemen who show up in the middle of the night.
The news out of Hong Kong reminded me that I’ve had this draft post in the hopper, waiting to be completed.
I recently completed a Mandarin-Chinese language refresher course.
As part of our exposure to cultural issues, our teacher brought a documentary called “High Tech, Low Life” which followed the lives of two Chinese bloggers and their experiences dealing with China’s governmental restrictions on expression.
Here’s the trailer.
One is a man in his fifties, who goes by the name Tiger Temple. He refuses to be called a “citizen blogger” because creating a label or category like that invites government crackdown and restrictions on what “citizen bloggers” are permitted to write.
The other is a man in his twenties, Zhou Shuguang, who is well on his way to a form of celebrity status on the Internet. He is even invited to speak to a worldwide forum in Germany about China’s web restrictions and his blogging experiences.
I watched with interest and was challenged by thoughts about the power of this concept called a “blog.”
At one point, ten armed policemen come for Tiger Temple, swarming the humble older man in his temporary home. They pack him into a van and drive him back to his hometown several hours away from the city.
Why? To quell fears that his communicated thoughts or even mere presence might create a disturbance to the status quo during an important conference of Communist leadership.
All because a man jots down his experiences and thoughts about life happening around him.
Tiger Temple writes because he sees it as a way of showing the real situation wherever he is, and a way to ensure that the voiceless get their stories heard.
Zhou Shuguang makes it clear he has no such altruistic thoughts about the purpose of his online activities. He’s not out to make a political scene to defend someone else or call out the government about an issue unrelated to him. But he still stands as an example of someone demanding the basic rights and freedoms of humanity – the right to think as we desire and speak as we like. His focus may be self-centered but his action still benefits many.
This made me wonder: Do I value my ability to communicate freely the way these men do? Would I suffer personal loss or some level of government oppression to keep saying whatever I want on the Internet?
It’s easy to say whatever I want when hitting “Post” costs me nothing.