Black Friday

Social media in Hong Kong taking the fight to the Chinese government

Stan Ward

Stan Ward

October 2, 2014

Yesterday was 1 October – China National Day, a day supposed to commemorate the establishment of China. But this is unlike any China Day in recent memory. In Hong Kong the streets are packed with protesters, and the tenure of the Hong Kong chief executive, Leung Chun-ying is in jeopardy.

Hong Kong is in turmoil these days, as Mainland China seeks to control the elections in 2017. Social media is at the vanguard of the recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. SM has been leading the charge with its lightning- fast ability to communicate to the masses. This is in stark contrast to what it is happening on the mainland. There, the infamous Great Firewall is hard at work to stifle the information flow of what is transpiring in Hong Kong. BestVPN has long championed methods for operating within the confines of government censorship.

On the mainland both users and purveyors of VPNs are restricted, as censorship by the Chinese government is pervasive. This type of government control is quite sophisticated. For example newscasts about the demonstrations will blackout and filter comments by pro-democracy figures while allowing content and comments from pro-government hacks. The established China regime appears adamant about not allowing any hint of protest to spread to the mainland.

Hong Kong has been existing under the one China- two government mandate since the British surrendered rule in 1997. However, faced with the prospects that in the territory elections in a few years Beijing would choose the candidates to stand for election, citizens led by students have taken to the streets in protest. Though seemingly without a central leadership, the demonstrations are growing daily thanks to social media. Communications on Twitter and Facebook, and images on Instagram have been successful in swelling the demonstrations to about 100,000 clogging the main Hong Kong artery.

Meanwhile on the mainland, Chinese hungry for the truth are utilizing VPNs to circumvent the Great Firewall – to the chagrin of Beijing which is going to great lengths to contain the spread of the democracy movement lest it spread to other provinces. The protests are receiving wide exposure around the world as glimpses of China’s totalitarian practices are unveiled.

The protesters are threatening to occupy government buildings in the next few days if their demands ar not met. Not only are they demanding that mainland China not select the candidates who may stand for election, but they are also calling for Leung Chun-ying to step down from his post. He has been characterized as overzealous in his use of force- teargas and riot police in dealing with the demonstrators.

Leung appeared to thumb his nose at the protest by toasting with a glass of champagne at the China Day celebration in another part of the city. At those same celebrations, protesters turned their backs on the raising of the national flag.

Media mogul and government gadfly, Jimmy Lai, chairman of Next Media and publisher of the daily Apple, a popular newspaper, has come out in support of the demonstration. Lai has been a frequent critic of Beijing and a target of their repressive tactics recently as his home was searched. He pointed out the effective role that social media was playing in keeping the protesters informed and motivated.

It is unclear how long the mainland government will allow the protests to continue, or what may be the trigger for their intervention at some point. But one thing is certain. That the use of VPNs and social media will proliferate as a result of this outcry of public outrage against an oppressive regime. This could be at least one positive development regardless of the outcome.

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