Meet China's 'Jasmine' Activists

May 10, 2011

Following the revolutions in the Middle East earlier this year, government fears of a “Jasmine Revolution” in China have led to dozens of government critics, lawyers, activists, bloggers, artists and “netizens” being arrested since February. Meet a few of those brave activists.

Liang Haiyi aka Tiny
Status: In detention on suspicion of “subversion of state power.”
In her own words: “When the country cannot protect a beggar, it cannot protect the emperor!”

Liang Haiyi was an early victim of the “Jasmine Revolution” crackdown. Her blog has not been updated since February 19, when she posted: “How far away are Nazis from us? Would dictatorship reappear in Germany? Secondary school teachers did a little test and got an alarming answer that history can be repeated so easily, and therefore pay a painful price.” She also posted a video that can no longer be viewed.

Liang Haiyi was reportedly taken away by police in the northern Chinese city of Harbin for sharing videos and information about the ”Jasmine Revolution” on the internet. Chinese “netizens” have since dubbed her the “Southern Woman Martyr”, as supposedly the first activist to be arrested as part of the government’s crackdown on dissent inspired by regime change in the Middle East and North Africa.

Liang Haiyi posts under the screen name Miaoxiao, meaning ‘Tiny’, on  Twitter and the Chinese microblog QQ. Inspired by regime change in Tunisia, she reposted information from dissident websites hosted outside China – particularly – about plans for “Jasmine Revolution” protests in Chinese cities.

The exiled leader of the 1989 Tiananmen student protests Wang Dan has paid tribute to Liang Haiyi on his Facebook page, saying “she has had more courage than we had,” and that political repression is worse now in China than in his day.

Liang Haiyi’s Twitter page has now been deactivated, but her QQ page still bears links to articles and videos about the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and controversial topics in Chinese society, as well as her own comments and views.

Ran Yunfei: Sichuan activist and prominent blogger
Status: Formally arrested for “inciting subversion of state power”
In his own words:
“The more times your blog account is lost, the greater your effort to spread the truth.”

Ran Yunfei is a literary critic, academic and political commentator from Chengdu in southwest China, and is from the Tu ethnic minority.

The social media revolution turned him into a free speech activist on the internet. A prolific blogger, he was faced with repeated suspensions of his accounts on different blogging and microblogging platforms due to Chinese web censors. Ran Yunfei gained notoriety for his internet “guerrilla” tactics – appearing and disappearing on as many online account names as possible to keep the censors confused.

His influential online essay “Domestic microblogs live to die in battle” is an authoritative analysis and history of the growth of Chinese microblogs in competition with Twitter, as well as a tactical plan for how together they can be used to demolish the “tower of lies.”

Wang Lihong: Tiananmen-generation activist turned “netizen”
Formally arrested for “gathering people to block traffic”.
In her own words: “If I remain silent in the face of suffering and evil, then the next evil that should be struck down is myself.”

Like many Chinese people of her generation, Wang Lihong experienced a political awakening in Beijing during the 1989 student democracy protests. The crackdown on dissent that followed led her to resign her government job as a young doctor and to become a social activist.

In late 2010, as a punishment for her celebration of Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize, when she tried to meet a group of friends at a restaurant in Beijing, she was placed under administrative detention for eight days and then held under house arrest for more than three months.

During this time she was told to write a ‘certificate of guarantee’ of her behavior, in order to secure her freedom. She declined. She was detained in late March this year.

In an open letter, she wrote:

From a legal perspective, to make a person write a ‘guarantee’ that they will not do “illegal things” in order to have freedom of movement, is against the law, is a mockery of the law.
I am a Chinese citizen. I have the right to live in and to move around on the land of my own country.
I am a conscientious person, I can not guarantee to remain silent when faced with suffering …I can not pretend not to see such tragic events.
If I remain silent in the face of suffering and evil, then the next evil that should be struck down is myself.
As law enforcement officers, your actions limiting my freedom are illegal and have serious impact on my life. I hope that the relevant departments and law enforcement personnel will correct your violations as soon as possible, and restore my freedom.

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