Chinese challenge government online

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Chinese Internet cafe. (Image: faungg, Flickr)

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The Chinese have taken to the Internet in a big way -- nearly 300 million people are now online in China. But Chinese leaders aren't celebrating -- that's because the Internet provides a platform for Chinese citizens to criticize their government. An example of that is an online petition called "Charter 08."

"The World's" Mary Kay Magistad reports on Charter 08, and how, for some who've signed it, have run afoul of Chinese authorities.

When Charter 08 was launched a month ago online, it had more than 300 signatures, most of them were from lawyers and intellectuals. The government promptly arrested the main author, and then questioned or detained about 100 who had signed Charter 08.

If the idea was to intimidate others into not signing, it didn't work. Seven thousand people have now signed the charter. One was a Shanghai blogger who posted this entry: "We all grew up by feeding on political melanmine. Fear has been consolidated into stones in our bodies, causing pain from time to time. We are lucky to still be living."

The main drafter of Charter 08, a literature professor, has himself been in detention for a month. In an earlier interview, he said it was just a matter of time before China's leaders will have to accept that Chinese society has moved beyond their ability to dupe, intimidate and silence it:

"It is not like in Mao's era where if they fired you, you lost everything. Now people can find their own jobs and move from one place to another. And the diversified economy has led to a society with more diverse opinions and values. People feel they have the right to have their own opinions; they're not willing to just listen to government propaganda."

A case in point: an open letter signed by 20 lawyers and academics came out this week. It calls for a boycott of China's state-run television, and accuses it of trying to brainwash people. The author of the letter says state-run central television produces bias and distorted news, and ignores important events and serious social problems.

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