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The Revolt of China’s Twittering Classes

Ever since Iranians used Twitter to swap information and inform the outside world about the mushrooming protests against the stolen presidential election of June 2009, there has been much discussion of the role of digital activism in authoritarian countries like China. Does Web 2.0 technology imply an analogous role for “Twivolution” in a Chinese democratic transition one day?

BEIJING – Last week, Liu Xiaobo was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. That award comes at a crucial moment in Chinese politics, as it may well become a stepping stone on China’s long march toward greater freedom.

Yet few voices in mainland Chinese media are discussing Liu’s Nobel Prize. The government’s propaganda department has ordered major media to keep the news from spreading to the general public by imposing strict censorship. In fact, on CCTV’s widely viewed 7 p.m. national newscast, not a word on Liu was mentioned on the day he received the prize.

Despite this news blackout, China’s blogosphere and microblogs exploded after Liu was announced as the winner. For example, on Sina’s microblog site, bloggers used pictures, euphemisms, and English or traditional Chinese characters to avoid censorship.

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