Microbloggers’ Battle for Legal Justice in China

Author: Anne Cheung

In: Jacques deLisle&  Avery Goldstein (eds), The Internet, Social Media, and a Changing China (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), p.129.

About the chapter: Microblogging has a special appeal not only to Internet users in China who are keen to voice their opinions in a fast and easy way, but also to Chinese rulers who see microblogging sites as a giant magnetic field for them to tap into and to mold public opinions. In fact, since the 1980s, “public opinion supervision” has been on the agenda of the Chinese Communist Party. Yet, by the time of the 21st century, armed with the Internet, public opinion supervision has evolved into a powerful phenomenon with a life of its own. At its present time, the strange twist of logic is that the press is still tightly controlled by the Community Party but public opinion has been roaming wildly on the Internet, and creeping into the court rooms. To capture the above dynamic, this chapter studies the top 20 events discussed in blogs, microblogs and online discussion boards in China between 2008 and 2012, and analyses the extent that public opinion has influenced the investigation and judicial outcome of cases. This chapter focuses on the intricate relationship between the Party, the judiciary, the Internet and the netizens. It argues that the Internet has transformed public opinion supervision into a form a public opinion monitoring. The prowess of the netizens lies not in their ability to gather information but in being an active power to interpret, to associate and to transform the plight of their fellows into legal narratives. One of the biggest challenges now, perhaps, is to ensure public opinion can be a form of monitoring, untainted by the supervision of the authorities.

About the book: The Internet, Social Media, and a Changing China explores the changing relationship between China’s cyberspace and its society, politics, legal system, and foreign relations. The chapters focus on three major policy areas—civil society, the roles of law, and the nationalist turn in Chinese foreign policy—and cover topics such as the Internet and authoritarianism, “uncivil society” online, empowerment through new media, civic engagement and digital activism, regulating speech in the age of the Internet, how the Internet affects public opinion, legal cases, and foreign policy, and how new media affects the relationship between Beijing and Chinese people abroad.

View more about the book here.