On December 30, 2012, Tencent News, a Chinese news website owned by China’s largest Internet service company Tencent, published a list of China’s 10 most important protesters in the past two years. Although the piece was soon censored on the Tencent News website, the introductory summary went viral on Chinese social media and blogosphere. As soon as a netizen Qian Hao shared [zh] the original piece on Weibo on January 1, 2013, it gathered over 4,653 reposts and 500 comments within a few hours. Netizens applauded the stories.
The article[zh] started with a powerful statement:
When they [protesters] have freedom of speech, everyone else would too. We pay tribute to the ordinary people, because we value every ordinary Chinese who has the courage to say “no”. It is worth mentioning, many of which are born after 1990, a new generation who are more conscious of their individual rights. They tend to be more courageous and tend to use the Internet to make their voices heard.
It was followed by a roundup of the top 10 protesters, both individuals and groups who fight for their rights on different issues in Chinese society:
1) Wukan Village Residents: Against Fraud Election
Followed by protests against local authorities over farmland grabbing and corruption in late 2011, residents of Wukan in Guangdong held freely-held elections of their village leaders in February, 2012.
Tencent quoted one village resident Yang Semao[zh]:
A democratic election is like swimming, if you don’t try it out and get choked by some water, you would never learn it.”
2) Qidong Citizens: Against Opaque decisions
In July 2012, citizens in China’s eastern Qidong city surrounded the local government building to protest against the construction of a pipeline, which would channel wastewater from a Japanese-owned paper mill into the sea. In the end, the local government surrendered and stopped the project.
3) Hong Kong Citizens: Against “Brain-washing” Education
The Hong Kong government’s plan to make patriotic education compulsory at schools trigged mass protests and strikes among Hong Kong parents and students who consider it “brainwashing”. In the end, the government cancelled the class.
Tencent News commented[zh]:
The Hong Kong people’s patriotism doesn’t come from books or “education”, but from their heart and their identification with Chinese culture.
4) Ren Jiayu: Against Restrictions on Speech
Village official Ren Jianyu was sentenced to two years of “re-education through labour” in August 2011 after he posted messages on microblogs about social issues. Ren’s case triggered a campaign to end the “re-education through labour” system in Chinese social media.
5) Zhang Haite: Against Unfair Chance for Education
A 15-year-old girl Zhan Haite has made waves in Chinese media for her campaign on Weibo for the right to take the high school entrance exam in Shanghai, which is currently denied to migrant families in all Chinese cities unless they can obtain a Hukou (residency permit). Her campaign has trigged protests on hukou reform in China.
6) Yang Zhizhu: Against the One Child Policy
In March 2010, Yang Zhizhu was fired as a law lecturer in Beijing for having more than one child. His story is not rare in China. But Yang's high-profile protests have spurred debate over whether the one-child policy is needed now that the first generation born under it face the prospect of caring for an ever-increasing number of pensioners.
7) Zhao Keluo: Against the “Grave Clearing” Campaign
Two million graves and tombs across Henan were demolished in 2012 during the “flatten graves to return farmland” campaign. Zhao Keluo had his candidacy for the provincial Standing Committee revoked due to his fight against the campaign. He published a sarcastic “letter of repentance” on his Weibo account apologizing for his criticism of the campaign.
Tencent News commented:
He [Zhao] said “no” to local authorizes, which allows us to see another side of a CPPCC member other than “Hands up”.
8) Wu Heng: Against Toxic Food
Food safety is another issue concerning Chinese citizens in recent years. A graduate student Wu Heng decided to do something about it. He started a food safety blog called “Throw it Out the Window” to track China’s food safety problems. They also use Chinese social media to spread the news. The website has recorded over 190,000 hits since it was launched in June 2011.
9) Luo Yonghao: Against Commercial Domination
In early 2011, Internet popular figure Luo Yonghao tried getting the attention of Siemens via his Weibo when the door of his fridge refused to shut. When the company ignored him, Luo got other angry customers to join him in an action to smash their fridges outside Siemens’ Beijing headquarters.
Tencent News commented[zh]:
Chinese consumers have a long way to go in protecting their rights. We need more people like Luo Yonghao to fight against commercial domination and lazy administration by the government.
10) Netizens Against All Injustice
Tencent wrote[zh] to netizens:
Because of you, an isolated opponent is not alone. You have been shouting on every corner of the Internet: On the Forums, microblogging and news threads. More and more people heard your voices. You repost, make ironic remarks, or pass by. Most of the time, you say out loud: I object. All of you are protesters against all injustice.
In the end, Tencent hopes that the government will allow different voices to speak out on social matters in 2013.