Wednesday, September 30, 2009

“National Day” is Approaching, A Heated Debate on Twitter by Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser originally written for Radio Free Asia on September 22, 2009 and posted on her blog on September 28.  

In this blogpost, Woeser writes about the discussions being generated on Twitter about China's upcoming National Day on October 1st, the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the PRC.  

For Twitter-friendly readers, Woeser can be followed on Twitter @degewa and High Peaks Pure Earth can be followed on @hpeaks.

The image above was created by @zhangfacai 
The Chinese characters for 10 (十) and 1 (一) - meaning October 1st - create the symbol of the cross in shadow.

“National Day” is Approaching, A Heated Debate on Twitter 
by Woeser

Beijing’s residents can vividly sense the arrival of “National Day”. Its power affects all and everything; it even changes every person’s basic life necessities such as food, clothing, shelter and transport to varying degrees. Even if one decides to stay inside behind closed doors, one cannot escape it; for instance, TV programmes are persistently white-washing the past sixty years presenting them as glorious and magnificent, brainwashing all those joyful fools, forgetting that behind the smokescreen of this incomparable glory, there only existed a reign of terror, people were plunged into an abyss of misery. They would never mention that the bullets on Tiananmen Square twenty years ago weren’t at all fired into open air, that the tanks on Chang-an Street didn’t at all roll towards open space, and that until today many Chinese people’s tears are still pouring down.

And it’s not only television; all government owned media are making an equally vigorous clamour. Every night, all over Beijing, or rather all over China, gorgeous fireworks are leaping up, shining brightly and obstructing the view. Really, the aim is to gloss over the darkness of the sinister reality, to impede the true feelings of the people. Looking at different groupings within society in its entirety, are the fools or the silent ones in the majority? In fact, the whispers of the silent ones are penetrating the truth. A retired cadre, over eighty years old, once said to me that those endless talks about the glorious sixty years are nothing but self-deception, it would be much better to keep quiet and not make such a fuss. Also, at the time, in order to realise the real glory, the cadre participated in the student movements and joined underground groups; nevertheless she has suffered the hardships of the revolution for the rest of her life.

What we should not overlook is that the opposing voices can never be suppressed; on the internet which cannot be muzzled or closed down, one very important platform is Twitter. Somebody once argued the following: “in terms of the pace, the depth, and the range of the enormous information output, Twitter always has the edge over other traditional media. But of course, due to the unique conditions in a country like China, this sort of advantage has its special meaning.” On Chinese Twitter, 140 characters represent sufficient space to convey a great deal of content; whether it is an account of or a comment on latest news events or whether it is an interpretation of or discussion about someone’s personal opinion, Twitter is a brilliant platform.

I started using Twitter after the “Xinjiang Incident“. Within no time I had about a thousand “followers”. One of my Twitter friends, Ran Yunfei, an intellectual who has the courage to speak openly, already has over seven thousand “followers”. Twitter has really become too powerful to stop. I was very impressed by the quick response and support for the petition against the arrest of the Uyghur Professor Ilham Tohti, which Twitter made possible. Recently, with regards to the discussions on the subject “National Day”, Twitter can be compared to the backstage area of a showground where performers are utterly trying to portray the scene of glory and prosperity, but more and more voices, difficult to submerge, are slowly unveiling the masquerade.

I chose a few of them to present here: “Today a colleague asked: ‘Why is this year’s national celebration more ceremonious than ever before?’ and then surreptitiously came up with the answer: ‘It’s because this will be the last one.’” “The societal efficacy of the “National Day” celebrations is: because of the lack of political legitimacy and because of the fear of the inner political power structure, they have to use a certain ceremonial and linguistic system and by means of relentless repetition, they confuse the public, shape people’s ideas and opinions, and cover up the fear, which the lack of legitimacy has brought about.” “They loudly shout out slogans of serving the people, but they fetter people’s thoughts and opinions. They fly the big flag of legal systems and institutions, but they ravage people’s bodies and minds, they loudly sing the song of praise, ‘The East Is Red’, but edit out millions of sensitive words, they hold up high the stick of the “Three Represents” (the Communist Party of China must always represent the development trend of China's advanced productive forces, the orientation of China's advanced culture and the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people), yet those who follow prosper, whereas those who oppose perish. I watch you attentively, the ruler who, surrounded by the cheering sounds of ‘Long Live’, is on the verge of fading away.”

Not long ago, during the protests against the general elections in Iran, Twitter played an unexpectedly important role because purportedly hundreds of thousands of protesters used Twitter as a means to mobilise their people, so the protests were also called the “Twitter Revolution”. From this we can see that in times of constant technological development, new media tools emerge in an endless stream, causing the attempts of those despots who try to hide the truth from people to appear unfounded and futile.

September 22, 2009, Beijing.

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