China: Cameras, drunks and forced website closures

Kimbo Hu/Hu Defu, a well-known Taiwanese aboriginal folk musician gave a performance at a small bar in Beijing this past weekeknd. In attendance were many prominent bloggers, and here is Ycul blogger Reading Storeroom‘s account of the show, along with the problems he sees as more and more Chinese purchase digital cameras:




Tonight I went to see the play Amber. Sitting next to me were two little girls. Their cell phones were like two ever-lasting little flashlights. If they weren't taking photos, they were sending messages. Maybe after they took the photos they posted them straight to their blogs? I imagine they didn't get too much into the play, and ticked me off with their flashing.


Is taking photos really that important? With the arrival of the digital age, there are no more financial or technological barriers to taking photos. Anybody can make for themselves a sea of digital pictures. When I first bought my own digital camera, I couldn't stop playing with it either. Everywhere I went I'd take a picture. But I quickly noticed that most of my photos just ended up taking up space in my computer hard drive. Not many people were interested in me sharing with them; even I didn't have time to look through them all. At the same time, there was an endless flood of new photos still pouring in. Where I once had ambitions to sort through all the photos, I eventually gave up and, slowly, even the camera is now covered in a layer of dust.


One day my little brother sent me some of my childhood photos on QQ, old photos a friend of his had scanned in and fixed up. In the photos, my parents aren't even as old as I am now. Sighing and then some, I felt the worth of photos as memory keepsakes. But this thinking was quickly washed away by one friend's love for his son. Before his precious boy was even a year old, a 50G hard drive had already been filled by several tens of thousands of photos and over a hundred hours of footage of his son, rapidly increasing just like China's GDP. I said to him, when your son grows up he might not even have time to start schooling; going through all your photos will take him half his life.


Those of us who rush to grasp the latest technologies have now become grasped by these new technologies themselves. We always figure we're recording history, but the result is we don't have time to enjoy the present. Just like when we go out for travelling, taking photos always becomes the first priority. As though the trip only exists if it is caught on film. When the camera lens replaces our eyes, how much mood is there to go and enjoy the scenery?


These feelings reached their peak at the Hu Defu concert. On the evening of July 19, This old Taiwanese singer put on a small concert at Beijing's Yugong Yishan bar, packed tight by three to four hundred people. The second old Mr. Hu came on stage, all the flashes turned night into day. Someone angrily screamed out, “don't flash people in the eyes,” but it didn't help. The photography as performance art kept up straight until the end of the show. I suspect that those photographers didn't listen to that many songs.


My friend Guangguang was there. He's a rabid photographer, every day packs several dozens of kilograms of equipment on his back all day. But at the show, the only things raised in his hands were the music and beer. This little guy was high enough as it was. The next day I bumped into him on MSN. Turns out that he spent the night in Shuise Shengkai bar. After midnight, friends started taking off one-by-one, leaving Hu Defu and Chen Yonglong those guys with nowhere to go. Stupid Guangguang with his stupid luck, actually watched the sun come up over Shenshahai, and then the old guy had to hustle to the airport.

Envious almost to the point of going crazy, I bitterly asked: ‘So, did you get a picture?’
‘No,’ he said.
Later, I saw this bit up on his blog, which makes a good end for this piece: “When dawn came, I knew what I was seeing, but I hadn't brought my camera. I know, the sights that moved me the most, and they're not in my camera, in my computer or in a photo. They're in, and can only be in, my heart.

With a bit of citizen reporting from Guangzhou—a Southern Chinese city known for its crime levels—Donews blogger Noise, cameras also play a small part:



I have a friend who lives in Huajing New City. I've been to visit him twice, and both times coming back I've come across danger.


Last time was on the #178 bus to Wuyang New City. In just the few brief seconds when passengers get off, I suddenly saw a group fight. I was sitting closest to the rear exit door, just an eyelash length away from the punching and kicking. About five or six people quickly fled from the fight, and then I realized that I had just witnessed a unsuccessful robbery attempt. Five or six punks, unable to steal a cell phone, changed tactics and took it by force. They didn't expect the victim to strongly fight back and beat them. Luckily, the robbers didn't use any weapons, and the victim wasn't seriously hurt in the group attack.


This time, last night, it was a drunk making trouble, again on the #178 bus. When it got to Gangding, four workers and their equipment got on the bus and started making a racket. One of them had a bottle of baijiu tucked in his pocket. After he got on he started hollering at one guy sitting near the door, telling him to get lost. Plastered and hardly able to keep his pants up, he then went and sat on one woman's lap. Naturally, the driver yelled at the drunk to get off. He pulled out the bottle and jumped at the driver, but was luckily held back by two of his worker buddies.

Taken at the scene


The story ended like most drunk troublemaker stories do. But after the police arrived at the scene, the drunk refused to get off the bus. The cops didn't use any forceful tactics, just let him hold up the bus with his drunken antics. The passengers could only get off the bus and wait for the next one. In the meantime, here's what happened:
1. The driver was furious: a bloody construction worker dares to get drunk and make trouble on the bus. The drunk didn't care: what right does a stinking driver have?
2. After the driver called the cops, two of the drunk's three companions stole off with their bag, leaving just one to stay with the drunk, who kept on accusing the driver of bad attitude.
3. The male and female passengers who had been harassed quickly agreed with the cops to go back to the station to make a statement.

Expanding on the negative news, a post from fellow Guangzhou-based journalist-blogger Wen Yunchao shows that as of yesterday, Century China, one of the largest leading liberal forum websites in China has been shut down:


Century China Editor: The Last Day


This is Century China website and Century Forum‘s last day. As of midnight they'll both be closed down.


Who, on what basis, with what right, in accordance with what procedure, made this decision, took this kind of action? There was no open hearing or chance to argue the case. It was all just an arbitrary order.


What right does he have? Has he violated the constitution? This is a question the public can ask! This is a question history will ask!


When the day comes, if someone says, “I'm just following orders,” “I'm just a screw in a huge machine.”
Well sorry, we're not going to accept this kind of excuse, this kind of pretext!


Every single action is carried out by particular people, but the actors themselves must take responsilibity for this!

From the Century China forum website:


Dear friends,


It is now 9:45 p.m. on July 25, 2006


We still don't know the exact time the website will be shut down, because nobody is willing to carry out a ‘voluntary closure.’ That's right, nobody is willing to pass off the ‘execution’ as a graceful ‘suicide’. Now, we're just waiting for the person who sent down the order to pull the trigger!


It might be in the next minute, or it might be tomorrow morning…… But it won't be very long now.


Since the day it was founded, Century China and especially its forum, have built a rational and open public space for free speech. For six years we've maintained this objective. Because we believe that this kind of public domain plays a significant and constructive role in fostering equality, freedom, rationality and a positive civic culture, in contributing towards construction of China's scientific and cultural development. In these six years, although we've been through countless trials and tribulations unbeknown to outsiders, in learning to compromise in our persistence and to persist in our compromising, we've gotten through many moments of crisis. But today, we cannot escape our doomed fate.


Somewhat comforting, Century China in the history of building contemporary China's ‘public domain’, has left behind achievements that are inimitable cannot be erased. Through all the accomplishments that have been achieved, there of course have been a group of editors, webmasters and tech staff suffering and working hard. But in the end it all still depended on the hundreds of thousands of netizens! It was through your support and participation that Century China‘s accomplishments were achieved! At this time, please allow me to represent Century China‘s work group in expressing to all the readers and net friends our sincerest thanks! Thank you for sticking with us all along, and thank you for being here for the last minutes.


At the same time, we'd also like to you apologize for any faults in our work. In the free speech of the forum, when passionate debates sometimes led to personal attacks, the webmasters couldn't help but intervene and make rulings; sometimes due to restrictions on free speech, the webmasters had no choice but to delete posts. Although our principles are reasonable and just, in practical operations, it's completely possible that some net friends were met with unjust treatment, also parting words of advice for which we should be thankful. If we are to honestly live up to our cherished principles, we need to pay heed to these unpleasant words of advice, and incessantly question ourselves. It's just a pity that we won't have an opportunity to improve upon this forum. That said, I urge those friends who received unfair treatment to forgive us.


Century China is about to end. But Century China‘s articles, readers and net friends will nonetheless spread her story and history, spread Century China‘s struggle and high-headed spirits. Century China is dead, so that we can live, in the hopes, and let's keep our fingers crossed, of a beautiful and civilized future!


Century China


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