It’s no secret to the international community that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken extreme measures over the years to limit the public’s access to questionable information in regards to their administration, among other material considered offensive. Not only does the CCP have blatant disregard for the liberty of its citizens, but it has committed human rights abuses in the process of attempting to preserve its regime. Over the years the CCP has made extensive efforts to block citizen access to any material it deems inappropriate from a variety of sources, such as television and radio. However, with the dawn of the Internet, the CCP has struggled in attempts at securing and blocking off contact with opposition.
Chinese netizens (“citizen[s] who use the Internet as a way of participating in political society” (http://whatis.techtarget.com), have begun showing their dissent for the intrusive monitoring and restrictions as a group and not so subtly. A community of Chinese netizens have banded together in silent protest taking shots at the government, now dubbed “The River Crab Society,” after the homonym “river crab” to “to harmonize” in lieu of the government slogan. A river crab in folk language additionally refers to “bullies with violent power.” Images of a vicious crab now float around the Internet, mocking Chinese authorities.
But more recently, a new case ridicules their lack of control much more humorously employing a rude double entendre of the “grass-mud horse.” The dirty secondary meaning has clearly struck a chord with many Chinese, as the popularity surged of a faux-informative video of grass-mud horses needing to rid the grasslands of infesting “river crabs.” The video has political references without a doubt and is an example into the futility of censorship as well as a response to a severe Internet crackdown.
This crackdown was a response itself to the online petition Charter 08 which was circulating last December and drafted by leading intellectuals in effort to call for the end of the CCP’s one-party authoritarian rule. It laid out “a vision for a rights-based society – an electoral democracy, under the rule of law, with equality for peasants and city-dwellers and protected freedoms of speech and expression” (csmonitor.com). As a result, drafters were detained, sometimes several times in a month to be questioned for 12 hours at a time without food or water. Further, the censors launched a campaign and shut down nearly 2000 websites and 250 blogs (nytimes.com). Though similar efforts have been made in the past, this petition is novel for important reasons: the diversity of people who signed of various ages, backgrounds, and social class, and for the lack of central organization that signers got around to finding and signing the manifesto. This is very noteworthy given the fact that despite obstacles to blogging and easy online-networking, thousands were able to band together for this cause.
Wines, Michael. New York Times. “A Dirty Pun Tweaks China’s Online Censors.”
Adams, Jonathan. Christian Science Monitor. “Charter 08 Worries China.”