As the Internet has gained in influence in China, the “human search engine” and “internet mob” has also made itself increasingly known. We’ve discussed several such stories here, including the case of Wang Qianyuan. In the past, some unknown government bureau might have simply issued an edict banning this behavior… but in a hopeful sign of the maturing legal system in China, senior judges are discussing how to deal with a lawsuit related to one such incident.
ESWN provides background on the case of Jiang Yan, and her husband Wang Fei. Jiang Yan committed suicide in the last few days of 2007, and that’s where the story begins. The full story of her husband’s affair and cruelty was described on numerous internet sites by Jiang Yan’s sister and friends. The human search engine and internet mob went into action, harassing Wang Fei and family at work and at home.
Rather than just disappearing, Wang Fei has filed a lawsuit against three Internet sites and one of Jiang Yan’s friends. I’m not going to get into the titillating details, but here’s an update from the China Youth Daily on the lawsuit (连接):
This reporter has learned that after the third hearing on the “first human search engine case”, the Beijing Chaoyang District Court has called a conference of senior judges. 54 senior judges have begun heated discussions on the topic.
Roland at ESWN gives us this excellent account of the Internet Lynch Mob again blindly rushing after a target… and sadly, this time, it’s gotten the wrong person.
Fan Xiaohua (范晓华) produced the official statement form the Mianzhu Communist Party Committee: “Comrade Fan Xiaohua (范晓华) has not been to Mianyang since May 12. She has not been to the May 1st Plaza of Mianyang. Mianyang and Mianzhu are not the same place. Comrade Fan Xiaohua (范晓华) and her family did not have any tents since May 12, so they could not be staying in one. Each night, Fan Xiaohua (范晓华) and her colleagues slept inside cars. Comrade Fan Xiaohua (范晓华) and her family have never owned a car. The Mianzhu city Communist Youth League car has license number Sichuan F70034. The Sichuan BD3732 license plate has been found to belong to Fan Xiaohua (范小华) of Jiangyou city who is not Mianzhu Communist Youth League secretary Fan Xiaohua (范晓华).
After Fan Xiaohua was involved in first stealing a disaster tent and second assaulting an old woman, arguably, he/she deserved some amount of public scorn. The problem with the Internet Lynch Mob is that it spreads rumors blindly. The Internet Lynch Mob has become judge, jury, executioner in one, and operates with little rational thought and discourse. I increasingly believe it’s becoming a scourage on modern Chinese society.
Roland provided a translation of part of a Southern Metropolis article on this. I’ll translate the rest; I completely agree with its sentiment:
Zhang Ya (张雅) (UPDATE: New name, see more below) has become the latest target of the Internet lynch mob. She is a 21 year old girl from Liaoning, and probably receiving far more hostility than even Grace Wang.
Students from Sichuan high school were evacuated from their classrooms on May 12th due to the earthquake. A few decide to record themselves having some fun. They mock the idea of casualties (one girl says she’s not worried about her parents, only the singers of Twins); they say they hope there’s an earthquake every day.
The debate over the Internet lynch mob’s attack of Wang Qianyuan continues. Roland at ESWN brings us this exchange between one of Grace Wang’s supporters at Duke and members of the Chinese community. Grace Wang’s self-stated goal was to help the two sides “communicate”, but the final results show that hasn’t happened.
Unfortunately, many in the West continue to conflate the Internet mob’s behavior with Chinese nationalism at large. The truth is, the two are not directly related. As a proud Chinese nationalist who “defended” the Olympic Torch, I too am absolutely appalled by the Chinese Internet mob.
As far as Wang Qianyuan’s rough treatment being used to criticize those of us who love China… enough is enough. If the verbal attack on Wang Qianyuan suggests something is wrong with Chinese nationalism, then what does the physical attack on Jin Jing in Paris suggest? That something is fundamentally wrong with French liberalism?