Lieutenant Pike, Li Gang, And China's Internet Dilemma

At Asia Times, Peter Lee draws parallels between online reactions to the “My Dad is Li Gang” incident at Hebei University and John Pike’s pepper-spraying of seated students at UC Davis. These demonstrate, he argues, that the essential nature of the Internet is broadly similar from one country to another. Governments’ responses to it vary far more widely, however, and Lee suggests, citing an unpublished paper by Perry Link and CDT’s Xiao Qiang, that China’s chosen course may prove unsustainable.

The Pike incident was not the most extreme case of police overreaction against OWS demonstrators (Oakland occupies the pole position here) and Li Qiming’s desperate, drunken bravado (if it actually occurred) was not the most heinous display of princeling impunity in China.

But they were neat, irrefutable morality plays starring blatantly abusive villains and unambiguously innocent, tragic victims. They validated convictions and attitudes that until then had lacked clear illustrations of who the bad and good guys were ….

Incidents like the Li Gang affair (and the handling of events after a high-speed train crash of July 23, 2011, which provoked a similar outpouring of righteous indignation), apparently provoked some soul-searching within China’s official Internet apparatus.

However, confronted with the defiance and invincible ingenuity of China’s netizens, China’s cyber-establishment did not respond to the futility of censorship with surrender. For the time being, the CCP … still believes that the role of the state is to give overt guidance to a captive Internet.


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