The Wall Street Journal comments on the movement of self-declared independent candidates who are running for local elections in China and using social media to get their message out, on the eve of the CCP’s 90th birthday celebration:
Tantalizing indications are emerging that dissenting voices are gaining traction in the public square. For instance, ordinary Chinese are running for election in local legislative bodies that are usually rubber-stamp bodies filled with reliable worthies chosen by the Party.
A similar trend briefly emerged in the early 2000s, but the authorities were largely able to intimidate or co-opt the challengers. This time crude measures are only encouraging more candidates to emerge. As in the Middle East, young, white-collar urbanites angry about corruption, inflation and poor governance are less cowed by threats of repercussions than their elders.
Another difference is that the candidates are gaining such a large following that detaining them risks causing a wider societal backlash. The rise of social media is a contributing factor. When the major Web portals sprang to prominence a decade ago, the authorities hired tens of thousands of censors and commenters to control the debate, with some success. Now microblogging sites such as Sina Weibo are further speeding up communication, allowing celebrity “thought leaders” to broadcast their ideas to tens of millions before the censors have a chance to respond.