‘A Long Ride Toward a New China’

Looking for inspiration? Chinese blogger Zhang Shihe, writing under the pseudonym ‘Tiger Temple,’ defies an oppressive state to report on the hardships and corruption of rural life in China. It’s an understatement to say that he goes to extraordinary lengths – quite literally – to tell others’ stories and reveal injustices done to them. There is no American blogger who has a task, fortunately for our society, even remotely so difficult or commendable:

Every summer, the 59-year-old Chinese blogger Zhang Shihe rides his bicycle thousands of miles to the plateaus, deserts and hinterlands of North Central China. In this Op-Doc video, we meet Mr. Zhang, known to his many followers online as “Tiger Temple,” as he goes to great lengths to document the stories of struggling rural villagers whose voices are seldom heard in China’s state-monitored media.

In a country with one of the most sophisticated media and Internet censorship systems, Mr. Zhang and other bloggers must exercise great caution when writing about politically sensitive content — often skirting the label “citizen reporter.”

…. In 2010, he was taken by the police and put under house arrest for 10 days, during the country’s annual parliamentary meetings. News spread quickly. That day he received more than 2,000 text messages — good wishes poured in from concerned friends and readers who supported his efforts to help flooded villagers, defrauded farmers and the Beijing homeless. On this day, he said, he “felt the true power of the Internet.”

In 2012, Mr. Zhang was forced by the police to pack up his Beijing apartment and leave the city indefinitely. He now lives and blogs in the city of Xi’an with his elderly mother. As the summer months near, he prepares to set off on his seventh year of grueling bicycle trips deep into the countryside to continue his reporting.

Cross-posted at FREE WHITEWATER.

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