China's Li
Chengpeng wins top honors at The Bobs online activism award

Prominent Chinese blogger
Li Chengpeng won the jury's prize for Best Blog at The Bobs awards for the best
blog in online activism. Jury members called him an inspiration to young people
in China.

At the beginning
of 2013, Li Chengpeng saw his name hit the headlines outside of his native
China while on tour to promote his book “The World Knows.” Afraid
that his fans could turn a book-signing event into a political rally, he was
only permitted to hold what he called “silent book readings” as
authorities allowed him to sign fans' books but not speak with them or read
from his collection of essays.

on the Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo, Li said the authorities
“are all crazy” and when he appeared for the book signing he didn't
say a word but wore a shirt that said “I love you all” to thank his

And he
has a lot of fans. Over 7 million people follow Li's posts at and young people in particular listen to what
he has to say. In November 2012, he gave a speech at the University of Beijing
where he told students that Chinese people had been unlearning how to speak for
decades. His speech made its way around the Internet and the political nature
of his views became clear.

am only pushing to get the right to speak and to write,” he said.

criticism of the poor state of freedom of expression in China is seen as both
descriptive and sharp.

officials announce that our country publishes the most books and magazines, I
think that our country is the one that produces the most toilet paper,” he


A new form
of protest

In his
mid-40s, Li is not among China's youngest bloggers, but he is a part of a new
culture of protest developing in the country. Individuals no longer have to
stand up to injustices alone and instead identify problems and publicize them
to engage a wider section of the public. Issues can range from the acts of a
corrupt local politician to companies cutting corners in construction projects.

Li saw
how shoddy construction caused a building to collapse in May 2008 and witnessed
how victims could not be rescued from the remains as the site was too dangerous
for others to enter. He wrote that he could not understand how in a region
prone to earthquakes, buildings that collapse at the slightest movement of the
ground were allowed to be put up.

thing that still makes me wonder,” he wrote in his blog four years later,
“is the question of why all the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks
have names, while no one has the names of the children there.”

assembled a group of people who then traveled through the region to evaluate
the building materials used in schools. Of the many places they visited, they
found one building that remained standing after the quake and in which all the
teachers and students survived. The press was amazed that anything could
withstand the earthquake, but Li discovered that the building was one of the
few in the region built in accordance with construction requirements and
published an essay titled “The truth about the amazing survival of
students and teachers at the Longhan primary school.”


many sides

Li was
not always an opponent of the government. He started his media career as a
sports commentator and was a “patriot” unwilling to criticize
authorities and happy to believe that only evil could possibly come from the
West, he has said of himself. After watching a building's collapse result in
the deaths of hundreds of people, Li said he realized patriotism meant working
to protect his country and the lives of the people in it.

at the end of my life, I write an autobiography,” he said on his blog,
“when I got to the year 2008, I would write, 'Before now, I was an

passion became telling the uncomfortable truths of daily life in China in a
satirical and ironic way that grabs people's attention. One of his first books
addressed the lives of people forcibly displaced from their homes and their
fights against being moved against their will.

In 2010,
he tried to run as an independent candidate in parliamentary elections, and
while that course of action is legally available to every Chinese person,
people who are not members of the Communist Party do not stand a chance of
being successful. Still, his campaign made authorities uneasy and in exchange
they made his life difficult. A sports scholarship was taken away from his son,
a talented tennis player, and Li, of course, was not elected to parliament.

fresh take on problems in China and his courage in publicizing them convinced
this year's jury at The Bobs to honor him with the annual contest's top prize.
Chinese jury member Hu Yong, a blogger and journalist himself, said he has been
continually impressed by Li's campaigns and entertaining style of writing that
gets attention.

gives young people a very good example how to influence the future cause of
China,” Hu said. “The award shows that the jury members also think
that a blogger like Li Chengpeng can influence millions of young Chinese people
to let them be aware of the censorship, to be more free, more open and to be
more active in political process.”

Date 07.05.2013

Author Silke Wünsch / sms

Editor Jessie Wingard



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