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Saturday, November 27, 2004 

Roundup on blogosphere development in China and Hong Kong

Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at UC Berkeley, has put the two year old Chinese blogosphere into perspective in "The 'blog' revolution sweeps across China".

"In the current Chinese cyberspace, bloggers may not be as loud as their American counterparts. But they are potentially certainly no less subversive to the dominant paradigm. Hope will be born from their whispers," Xiao wrote on a seperate post in China Digital News.

"Communication is changing from a lecture into a conversation," Fons noted, paraphrasing the words of Dan Gillmor.

Everytime when a piece on China blogs and its relevance in democractic development comes out in anglo-media, there bounds to be objections coming from some Chinese bloggers.

Topku from Guangzhou has once again reiterated his objection that China's blogsosphere is assessed based on its impact on political freedom and state censorship.

He points to The Voice of Chinese Bloggers, where Chiu Yung, another Guangzhou blogger wrote that there are many things other than politics that Chinese bloggers want to express.

Many blogs that run on individual websites are not censored or regulated. Business scandals as reported in individual blogs; residents affected by urban development who blogged their objections to state imposed relocation; and live blog coverage on a murder case on Wangfujing district in Beijing are some examples he cited.

Chiu Yung also noted that blogs also served as a watchdog on Chinese portal sites (note: a major form of media in China that are agenda and trend setter on news, business, IT and various industry). They are also changing Chinese netizens' on-line habits and way of thinking.

Over at Slashdot, on the very same topic, the discussion were mainly on politics and censorship.

As I wrote before, there is a huge gap of perceptions between the "West" and China in what the internet has accomplished in China and more fundamentally, what really matters to people of a different society.

Good news is there are signs in the comment section of Chiu Yung post indicating that Dan Gillmor may write a follow-up piece on the same topic - with more views from the Chinese included.

It would be interesting to hear from more ordinary Chinese bloggers who have no vested commercial interests in the technology or media; or involved in any kind of political struggle with the regime on what they have to say.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, there is now a conscious effort by various citizens and academics in using blog as a platform for citizen journalism and a new space for civic discourse, as mainstream media become increasingly politically one-sided (leaning towards Beijing's taste) in their agenda and reporting.

Citizen Reporter blog is one of them. It was born out of a cultural studies course and has spurred a number of new blogs in the city since then, including the Civic Writing Machine (民間寫作機器) whose blog's name is the opposite of the "national propaganda machine" that, some local activists said, has penerated into many aspects of life in Hong Kong.

Perhaps the more interesting set of blog posts surfacing in Hong Kong nowadays are those that are written by mainland-China immigrants on their collective memories of living and growing up in Hong Kong. (See: 像我這樣的一個新移民, 我們這些七字頭, 那些逝去的情感.)

They illicited the cultural shocks they had, the economic hardships and discrimination they faced while growing up in Hong Kong, the struggles they had in becoming a Hong Konger, etc. -- these are often stories that are not widely known in Hong Kong's mainstream society.

As a reader pointed out, these are collective memory that would not surface in public space as they were very private memories of individuals.

Thanks to blogs, we can now know about these experiences. They may even serve as teaching materials on tolerance of new immigrants from China and ethnic diversity that have yet to become widespread practice in Hong Kong.

What I have listed here are just a small sample of the seemingly growing blogosphere in Hong Kong that I found interesting. There are lots more out there waiting to be discovered. However, the growth of blogs, especially the citizen journalism genre may be slow because the city's youth have difficulties articulating themselves, as an instructor of citizen journalism noted.

Update: Isaac talksback to the reactions on the media pieces we've seen on the Chinese blogosphere. Read his words! I like his concluding remarks: "we don't need to predict the future, because we are creating it, harnessing the power of grassroots." Yes, I think that's the way to go. You don't like what you're see today, the best way to change the status quo is to create a viable alternative.

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