Yesterday’s protest against a plan to build a garbage burning plant in the city of Panyu has sparked a lot of interest all over the internet. A fair amount of people showed up, and it seems like Sina has given a pretty optimistic writeup of the town hall event that sparked the protest. Mostly, though, this whole affair has piqued our interest in how the internet has integrated itself into the protests.
First and most interesting is the viral nature of the protests: we were able to both watch live streaming footage and tap into a deluge of tweets from a vast network of Chinese users all intimately interested in the issue at hand. We watched hundreds of tweets and retweets of protesters, some coming it by the hundreds each minute. It’s a testament to the incredible power of the Chinese online community to say the least.
Yesterday’s protest is also an interesting example of the government’s method of censorship. The various articles we’ve found on Chinese news sources are pretty frank, though anodyne, about the protest and the reasons behind it. At the same time, the government has blocked a number of Twitter interfaces as a result of yesterday’s tumult, which has become the method of choice for circumventing China’s Great Firewall.
When you look at it, both sides have used the internet to their advantage in a battle that constantly moves on to different battlegrounds: the government blocks social networking platforms only to force netizens to find new ways around the Great Firewall. The western media has a number of write-ups of how enviornmental protests are emblematic of a middle class that’s increasingly aware of the power of its own voice. We agree, but we’re more fascinated by watching the massive online community come together and use its collective power to voice its opinion as events unfold.
We’ve found a youtube playlist of footage from the event (which you can also access through the video above), so you can get an idea of the actual protest, and if you can get on Twitter you can follow the ongoing discussions at the related Twitter feed