30,000 or more rioters set fire to government buildings over the weekend in the Guizhou province to protest the way authorities handled the death of a teenager in the province’s Weng’an County.Guizhou officials on Tuesday were forced to reopen the investigation into the death of a 17-year-old student who was raped and murdered. Police had originally labeled her death a suicide, but outraged local residents believed she had been raped and killed by people who had connections with local officials.
Media-freedom group Reporters Without Borders says that since the beginning of 2008, there have been 24 cases of journalists, cyberdissidents or free-expression activists being arrested or sentenced to jail terms.
Some Chinese journalists and Internet writers have been emboldened by the Guizhou incident.
Citizen journalist Zhou Shuguang, who goes by the online name of Zola, began sharing snippets of information via Twitter. He has posted recordings of interviews with rioters and local residents on his blog, which is hosted on a server outside China. He also hosts alternative links to his site that use technical loopholes to get around blocks placed on accessing his site inside China.
Another circumvention method that has been in action for many years is to write the text and take a screenshot of it. Censors aren’t very good at parsing text in a JPEG file.
Some are taking evasion to limits by posting in formats that China’s Internet censors, often employees of commercial Internet service providers, have a hard time automatically detecting. They take software that flips sentences to read right to left instead of left to right, and vertically instead of horizontally,
San Xiao, whos is a reporter for a local newspaper in Guizhou (under a different name), said he decided to post reports online that censors wouldn’t allow in the newspaper. When Monday came, he posted on his blog an article titled, “Let’s see how far the post can go before it gets censored and deleted,” which collected details about the riot from several different sources. By Tuesday, his original post on the Chinese Internet destination qq.com — plus many copies on other sites — had been removed.
“It is everyone’s responsibility to get this information out, and I will try all means,” he wrote in an email.