On 30 December 2012, Tencent News — a channel owned by the country’s largest Internet company — published a list of the ten most important protesters over the previous two years. Although the piece was soon censored from the channel, it went viral on social media. Here is a summary of the list, adapted with permission from a translation on GlobalVoices.org:
Wukan Village Residents: against election fraud
After protests against local authorities over farmland-grabs and corruption in late 2011, residents of Wukan in Guangdong held elections for village leaders in February 2012.
Qidong Citizens: against opaque decisions
In July 2012, citizens in Qidong, a city near Shanghai, surrounded the local government headquarters to protest against the construction of a pipeline that would channel wastewater from a Japanese-owned paper mill into the sea.
Hong Kong Citizens: against ‘brainwashing’ education
The Hong Kong government’s plan to make ‘patriotic education’ compulsory at schools triggered mass protests and strikes among Hong Kong parents and students who considered it ‘brainwashing’. In the end, the government cancelled the classes.
Ren Jianyu: against restrictions on free speech
A village-level official by the name of Ren Jianyu was sentenced to two years of ‘re-education through labour’ in August 2011 after posting messages on microblogs about social issues. Ren’s case triggered a campaign on Chinese social media to end the Re-education Through Labour system.
Zhan Haite: against inequalities in educational opportunities
A fifteen-year-old girl, Zhan Haite, made waves in the media for her campaign on Weibo for the right to take the high school entrance exam in Shanghai, which is currently denied to the children of migrant families living in Chinese cities without a residency permit.
Yang Zhizhu: against the One Child policy
In March 2010, Yang Zhizhu lost his job as a law lecturer in Beijing for having more than one child. His story is not rare, but Yang’s high-profile protests spurred debate over whether the one child policy is needed, especially now that the first generation born under it face the prospect of becoming sole carers for an ever-increasing number of pensioners.
Zhao Keluo: the ‘grave clearing’ campaign
Official policy saw two million graves and tombs across Henan province demolished in 2012 during a campaign to ‘flatten graves and return the land to farming’. Zhao Keluo had his candidacy for the provincial ruling committee revoked due to his fight against the campaign. He published a sarcastic ‘letter of repentance’ on his Weibo account apologising for his criticisms.
Wu Heng: against toxic food
Food safety is another issue that has concerned citizens in recent years. A graduate student, Wu Heng, decided to do something about it: he launched a food safety website called ‘Throw it Out the Window’ (Zhichu chuangwai 掷出窗外, at: zccw.info).
Luo Yonghao: against commercial domination
In early 2011, the Internet celebrity and noted teacher Luo Yonghao tried attracting the attention of Siemens via his Weibo microblog when the door of his fridge refused to shut. When the company ignored him, Luo got other angry customers to join him in smashing their fridges outside Siemens’ Beijing headquarters.