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.

3. Citizen investigations

On Dec. 25. 2010, a Chinese man was hit by a truck and died in China’s eastern Zhejiang Province. The incident may have been quietly mourned and then forgotten, if not for a group of online activists who were convinced that Qian Yunhui’s death was not the accident that local police said it was.

Mr. Qian was a village leader who clashed with local authorities over compensation for people who were evicted because of a local development project. Photos of his body went viral, and activists rallied to investigate his death themselves. Throughout their investigation, they noted their every move online.

Their effort eventually petered out after running into a number of obstacles. Some even concluded that the death had been an accident after all. But although they may not have accomplished their stated goal, it was a significant event for China’s online activists.

"The significance of this case is that citizens moved from the virtual world to the real world and did something together," says Jia Xijin, head of the Civil Society Research Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing. "The Internet can have an influence on real life."

See full Monitor report.

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