Communication Technology Works Around Censors

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This is my kind of news! The Washington Post has a story on how a community in China was able to use text-messaging and cell phones to get around government censors, and stand up against the construction of a giant chemical factory. This is what technology in communication does for the world — it enables individuals to connect, relate, and unite.

By promoting the construction of a giant chemical factory among the suburban palm trees, the local government was “setting off an atomic bomb in all of Xiamen,” the massive message sprays charged, predicting that the plant would cause “leukemia and deformed babies” among the 2 million-plus residents of this city on China’s southern rim, just opposite Taiwan.

The environmental activists behind the messages might have exaggerated the danger with their florid language, experts said. But their passionate opposition to the chemical plant generated an explosion of public anger that forced a halt in construction, pending further environmental impact studies by authorities in Beijing, and produced large demonstrations June 1 and 2, drawing national publicity.

The delay marked a rare instance of public opinion in China rising from the streets and compelling a change of policy by Communist Party bureaucrats. It was a dramatic illustration of the potential of technology — particularly cellphones and the Internet — to challenge the rigorous censorship and political controls through which the party maintains its monopoly on power over China’s 1.4 billion people.

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