As the start of the Beijing Olympics draws nearer, the flames of controversy surrounding Chinese public authorities’ attitude to human rights are likely to be fanned afresh by an imminent social media campaign set in motion by Amnesty International Australia. The aim of this initiative is to foster and publicise transborder solidarity between Australian social media users and their Chinese counterparts who are effectively silenced by government measures restricting their freedom of speech.
The campaign is to be orchestrated under a contract by a specialist consortium team comprising Care Network, Bendalls Group and dgmAustralia. Amnesty will encourage Australian bloggers to join forces in expressing their feelings for the Chinese people affected by such policy, their distaste for the authorities of the Chinese government censoring the internet, and their disapproval of online media companies that collaborate with them to ensure that it is enforced.
A variety of content pieces such as text commentary, widgets and flag badges will be made available to help participating bloggers to spread the message. Social networking platforms Facebook and MySpace will be used for coordination purposes. The campaign is planned to reach its climax on July 30, 2008, when a protest, aptly called ‘Day of Protest’ will be staged in Martin Place, Sydney.
Amnesty International Australia campaign coordinator, Sophie Peer expresses the importance of such a campaign, citing the case of Shi Tao, “who simply used his Yahoo! email account to pass on censorship directives from the Chinese government and is now serving ten years in prison.” She calls attention to the fact that the practises concerned apply to both residents and visitors to China, remarking that, “our own Australian athletes and reporters could be inhibited from expressing their own opinions online and using the Internet freely while they are in Beijing.”
The spotlight will also be turned on the cooperative behaviour of companies such as Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft who comply with Chinese censorship laws designed to curb freedom of reporting and expression over the Internet.
A related Australian Facebook Cause Group has attracted 1,450 members the time of writing, indicating that the campaign is still gathering momentum. Further information is on offer at http://www.uncensor.com.au.