The technology of our dissent

August 17th, 2007 § 6

I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact of this blog and the banner on the Great Wall over the past few days. So much of the attention our actions in Beijing garnered was because of the technology we used to challenge the Chinese government. More than one story focused on the tools that helped us blast our message around the world. Such simple yet powerful tools have given a new generation of Tibetans unconventional weapons to fight for our people.

Check out this CityTV interview I did with Amber Mac via Skype Video Chat.

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The importance of video, and YouTube specifically, to our countdown protest cannot be overstated. For people around the world to see the banner on the Great Wall and what I was doing in Beijing almost as it happened, had a huge impact on the action. It created excitement amongst our supporters, helped us get a response from the IOC, grabbed the attention of the media and may have protected us from a harsher response by the Chinese government. And while we were doing our thing in Beijing, so many other Tibetans and supporters were using the same technology to create a buzz around the International Day of Action for Tibet on the 8th. In London, SFTers and young Tibetans made this awesome video for the launch of Team Tibet UK.

To some, this technology is dangerous. It challenges the control the Chinese authorities have over people and the ideas they are exposed to. That’s why they try to block people from using it in China and Tibet. One of my heroes, the Tibetan writer Woser who lives in Beijing, has been targeted more than once. Last July, when she dared to post birthday wishes to His Holiness the Dalai Lama on her blog, the Chinese government shut her down. Far more dangerous than my words, Woser’s were in Chinese, and read religiously by young Tibetans in China and Tibet who can speak and read the language of the oppressor.

Already a number of young Tibetans in exile have set up blogs to express their feelings about China’s occupation of Tibet. Tenchoe from SFT India just set up From the Warriors and Tsewang Dorjee started one called Wake Up Beijing 2008.

When I was in China I used proxy servers to get around the Chinese censors and read about the protests in Lithang and the hunger strike in New Delhi. Just being able to see what other people were sacrificing for the cause of Tibetan freedom gave me courage to keep going. I was also able to read the comments being posted on this blog and feel the impact we were having in real time. Perhaps most encouraging were some of the messages from Tibetans inside Tibet. They said they found inspiration and strength in my actions, and in return I drew the same from theirs.

And that’s exactly why Beijing hates to see us use this technology – it lets us meet each other, share our ideas and convictions, and feel powerful in our solidarity.

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