Han Han, the Chinese blogger

With a readership of over 300 million, Han Han is one of China’s most influential online personalities. Judith Bruhn looks at his blog as an example of an individual citizen creating more open and diverse media in difficult circumstances.

The case

In January 2011, the Chinese blogger Han Han published a blog post entitled The Truth, Or a Truth That Meets Your Needs. It describes the mysterious death of Qian Yunhui, a Chinese village official and activist, who had been protesting against land requisitioning. Official news agencies had reported the death as an accident, but many suspected local officials had been involved in a cover-up of murder. In his blog, Han Han openly criticises the conduct of local authorities in this case, its way of dealing with activists and citizens. He points out government failings leading to a general distrust among Chinese people and suspicions of local authorities’ criminal involvement in Qing’s death. Han Han further uses this incident to speak out about the injustice of land requisitioning in rural China as he had witnessed it in his hometown, Shanghai Jinshan. At the same time, he rejects some comments by netizens as mere speculation and reminds his readers that it is important to look for the truth and not just a truth that suits them.

This is only one example of how Han Han’s blog serves as a form of citizen journalism, speaking about issues which the official state media either cannot report on or can report only in specific ways. Some of his blog posts are regularly deleted to prevent the spread of ideas and information contrary to the official line. His blog has made him one of China’s most influential online personalities with a readership of over 300 million.

Author opinion

Han Han’s blog is an example of individual citizens creating more open and diverse media in difficult circumstances. Through blogs, microblogs and other forms of communication individuals can disseminate information and ideas which would otherwise remain unreported or distorted in official media accounts. Although it is the blog of an individual, it helps to raise awareness of issues and enables his readers to make more informed decisions. In recent years blogging and microblogging on Weibo have become important ways in which young Chinese engage with social issues and current affairs, and have enabled the rapid circulation of news and information to a huge audience.

- Judith Bruhn

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford. www.freespeechdebate.ox.ac.uk

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