China's online protest movement
The online outpouring of anger and sympathy after a weekend bullet train accident in China killed at least 39 people has highlighted a robust criticism that exists online, sometimes beyond the reach of even the most powerful Chinese Internet censors.
A number of recent online campaigns have managed to raise awareness of issues the government would have otherwise been able to keep out of the public eye. In some cases, protests have even prompted a government response. Here are four:
1. Train accident
The microblogging site Sina Weibo got the information about double train crashes ahead of news outlets from passengers who were posting messages about the crash.
Despite robust censors, many comments about hasty construction of China’s high-speed rail, failed safety mechanisms, and criticism of the railways officials made it online. Demands for greater transparency and accusations that the government was manipulating the death toll and trying to hide some of the evidence of the accident – actions almost unheard of 20 years ago – also made the rounds online. The criticism online likely prompted the firing of three officials, but seems to have had little effect.
Thousands of people also mourned the death of one of the train drivers who was killed when he threw on the emergency brake in an attempt to stop his train from crashing into the one in front of it, Xinhua reported. More than 8,000 people said in a Weibo survey that they considered the driver a hero.