Mobilised by Mobile – Economist
Information technology in China is once again making political waves. In the tropical seaport of Xiamen citizens still talk excitedly about how an anonymous text message on their mobile phones last month prompted them to join one of the biggest middle-class protests of recent years. And in Beijing politicians are scrambling to calm an uproar fuelled by an online petition against slave labour in brick kilns.
Chinese officials have had reason to worry before about the rallying power of the internet and mobile phones. Two years ago they helped activists organise protests against Japan in several Chinese cities. But the government, at least initially, sympathised with those protests. By contrast the demonstrations in Xiamen were directed at officialdom, and the slave-labour scandal embarrasses the government. It involves allegations that officials ignored kiln-owners’ use of abducted boys to perform dangerous work. This has triggered a heated online debate about the political flaws that allowed such horrors to happen. [Full Text]