Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Now This is My Kind of Blogger

If you really want to see the transformative power of the Internet, check out this NYT profile of Li Xinde and the bloggers in the People's Republic of China. (If you're not already registered with the NYT's website, it's free of charge and the Magazine and Book Review are always worth checking out.)

The collision between the Internet and Chinese authorities is one of the grand wrestling matches of history, visible in part at www.yuluncn.com.

That's the Web site of a self-appointed journalist named Li Xinde. He made a modest fortune selling Chinese medicine around the country, and now he's started the Chinese Public Opinion Surveillance Net - one of four million blogs in China.

Mr. Li travels around China with an I.B.M. laptop and a digital camera, investigating cases of official wrongdoing. Then he writes about them on his Web site and skips town before the local authorities can arrest him.

His biggest case so far involved a deputy mayor of Jining who is accused of stealing more than $400,000 and operating like a warlord. One of the deputy mayor's victims was a businesswoman whom he allegedly harassed and tried to kidnap.

Mr. Li's Web site published an investigative report, including a series of photos showing the deputy mayor kneeling and crying, apparently begging not to be reported to the police. The photos caused a sensation, and the deputy mayor was soon arrested.

Now how many bloggers do you know who are that enterprising?

What makes Mr. Li's story so remarkable is that he's doing it in a country where freedom of expression is often a luxury enjoyed by some, not all. We complain about our government a lot (and Lord knows the past couple of weeks have given us a lot to complaini about), but as bad as Paul Martin is, he's got nothing on the PRC government when it comes to oppressing people.

For those of us who regard our blogs as a ranting board -- and I count myself among them -- well, this story kinda puts things in a different perspective, doesn't it?