Cell phones – China’s new Molotov cocktail?

No, I don’t mean that you light them on fire and throw them. But according to this article, mobile phones, with their text messaging capabilities, are becoming a formidable weapon in organizing protests and circumventing the notorious Great Firewall.

The thousands of people who poured onto the streets of China this month for the anti-Japanese protests that shook Asia were bound by nationalist anger but also by a more mundane fact: they are China’s cellphone and computer generation.

For several weeks as the protests grew larger and more unruly, China banned almost all coverage in the state media. It hardly mattered. An underground conversation was raging via e-mail, text message and instant online messaging that inflamed public opinion and served as an organizing tool for protesters.

The underground noise grew so loud that last Friday the Chinese government moved to silence it by banning the use of text messages or e-mail to organize protests. It was part of a broader curb on the anti-Japanese movement but it also seemed the Communist Party had self-interest in mind.

“They are afraid the Chinese people will think, O.K., today we protest Japan; tomorrow, Japan,” said an Asian diplomat who has watched the protests closely. “But the day after tomorrow, how about we protest against the government?”

As the reporter says, SMS chain letters urged people to boycott Japanese products and were a vital tool in communicating the protests’ logistics. Demonstrators even sent out links to Internet sites displaying photos of the protests that were banned in China. And that must leave the CCP orthodoxy very nervous.

I suggest they get used to it. They can’t black out an entire country. Well, they can, but like North Korea they would then cease to be a global player and unrest would only grow worse.

Than to Lisa for the link.

The Discussion: 5 Comments

Richard, here’s another one for you: http://tinyurl.com/8pae7

April 25, 2005 @ 4:32 pm | Comment

Hey, I have heard that cell phones can explode in gas stations…has anyone TRIED lighting them on fire and throwing them?

April 25, 2005 @ 4:38 pm | Comment

What an article Lisa – thanks for the link. And no, I’ve never ignited my mobile phone, no matter how atrocious the service was.

April 25, 2005 @ 4:46 pm | Comment

I don’t think mobile phones are out of reach for the great firewall. I don’t know about images, but I do know that they filter text messages that are sent over the airways.

The mobile firewall just isn’t as powerful as the the great firewall. Yet.

April 25, 2005 @ 6:22 pm | Comment

Yes, that’s why they’er threatening to crack down on text messages used for organizing protests.

April 25, 2005 @ 6:29 pm | Comment

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