Anna’s fight stirs interest in China’s netizens

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9 Aug 2011
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They praise Hazare for bringing thousands to the streets

Social activist Anna Hazare’s fight against corruption and the protests in India this week have stirred interest among China’s vibrant online community, winning praise from netizens whose ire is often directed at corruption in officialdom.

On Thursday, Chinese microbloggers praised Mr. Hazare for raising public interest and bringing thousands to the streets in his battle against corruption, drawing a contrast with their home country where anger at corruption is widespread, but protests are rare and not tolerated.

Caijing, a widely-read liberal magazine, described Mr. Hazare as “the new Gandhi” in a posting on its account on the widely popular Chinese Twitter equivalent, Sina Weibo, which is used by more than 140 million people. The magazine has more than a million followers.

“China has more corruption than India, but when will we ever have protests?” asked one microblogger named Tianya Lu Tu, in response to the post.

“Let a Gandhi be born in China,” remarked another blogger from Hohhot, in Inner Mongolia.

Rail project

Corruption in China often stirs heated debate online. Most recently, corruption cases involving China's high-speed rail project have triggered wide attention following the sacking of Railways Minister Liu Zhijun and reports that another official had taken $2.8 billion out of the country. The allegations generated much anger among the middle class, particularly in the aftermath of a bullet train collision last month.

While Chinese newspapers often report on corruption cases involving local governments and lower-level officials, the Communist Party's highest leaders in Beijing are off-limits for discussion.

Even as many netizens drew attention to the freedom of protest in India, state media outlets instead focused on the dangers to political stability and Indian officials' reported claims of the involvement of a foreign hand.

“India is starting to doubt if the protests have a behind-the-scenes involvement of the United States,” the Communist Party's official newspaper, the People's Daily, said in a posting on Weibo.

The trigger

Hu Xijin, the editor of the Global Times, a strident Party-run newspaper, posted a message asking if the protests were India's “Arab Spring.” Quoting a Reuters article that posed the same question, his message pointed to a frustrated middle-class, social media and a free press as triggering the protests.

Jiang Jiang, a blogger, responded to Mr. Hu, who is often criticised online for his hyper-nationalist views: “You look at other country's problems, but never at our own dark environment.”

“A serious issue”

Last week, an article in Mr. Hu's newspaper compared the corruption problems in India and China. “Corruption is without doubt a serious issue in both countries that robs their development of financial resources and honesty,” the newspaper said. “The game is the same, only the rules are different.”

“In India, people are more blatant about asking for a bribe,” a Chinese engineer working on a power project in India told the newspaper. “They will tell you to your face how much it will take to get a licence stamped. In China, things are more subtle – you have to guess what's required.”

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