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The Bold and the Beautiful

  • Source: Global Times
  • [22:27 November 26 2009]
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Ai Weiwei employs 9,000 school backpacks to form the message "She led a happy life in this world for seven years", dedicated to the memory of Yang Xiaowan who died in the Sichuan earthquake last year. This artwork is exhibited in the "So Sorry" Exhibition at the Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany until January 17 next year. Photo: Courtesy of Ai Weiwei

By Jiang Xueqing

Reports of the death of blogging appear greatly exaggerated.

Like the loud-mouthed street hawker who kick-started China's market economy in 1979, a new breed of blogger is employing all available means to pioneer freedom of speech to a ravenous mainland market in 2009.

The newly-published Bold Chinese Blog showcases public intellectuals who refuse to remain silent, dare to confront, are capable of clarifying their opinions to the public and opening up the frontiers of freedom by making comments and taking actions, according to Chan Yuen-Ying, director of the Journalism and Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong.

As the Internet enjoys much broader freedom than newspapers and broadcast compa-nies, the best blogging can often be found in the cracks between traditional and new media.

"Blogging is like making love without wearing a condom," said magazine reporter Wang Xiaofeng, one of 17 named in the book.

Such bold characters as the writer Han Han, playwright Sha Yexin or architect Ai Weiwei assert that the Internet's relative openness and freedom has helped the government maintain social stability.

"Some officials want to reinforce the dam rather than draining the water, but it's not working," Ai said. "Without proper actions, the quake lake will collapse sooner or later. Like drains, blogs helped the government resolve conflicts and relieved its pressure."

Zhang Yiwu, a professor at the Department of Chinese Language and Literature of Peking University, agreed with Ai that blogs have made a significant contribution to freedom of expres-sion in China. However, he said, some Chinese web users including bloggers are "too free" to say whatever is on their mind.

"Without a broad view of the world and enough awareness of what democracy really is, they are not open-minded to social diversity and prejudiced against a lot of subjects, such as race and sex," claimed Zhang. Lou Jing fell victim to this prejudice. During her participation in a talent show held by the Shanghai Eastern Cable TV, the media focused on her background: she was reportedly an illegitimate daughter of an African-American man. After divorce, her Shanghainese mother raised her alone. Hundreds of web users then racially abused Lou and her mother online.

"Lacking ethical and legal bindings, Chinese web users just use the Internet as a way to vent out subconsciously whatever can't be said in public," Zhang said.

"The Americans, on the contrary, pay much more attention to the political correctness of topics about race and sex, since they have formed a cultural atmosphere about these sensitive issues in their society."

Chinese web users must therefore be held responsible for libel or spreading false information that might cause social panic, he insisted. For example, an angry ex-boyfriend posted an entirely false story in October that waitress Yan Deli was a prostitute infected with HIV/AIDS and listed all the phone numbers of her clients.

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