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All power to the 'netizens

They is no denying that the internet can be a force for good. Yes, there are regimes which clamp down, severely, on bloggers [read an excellent book on the subject, The Blogging Revolution, by Antony Loewenstein (MUP)] but those committed to harness the power of the internet find ways around restrictions on them.

The Washington Post reports in "China's 'netizens' hold authorities to new standard"

"A severed finger sparked an online uproar that went viral. And very quickly, rattled authorities here took note.

The story of Sun Zhongjie, a 19-year-old driver who chopped off his finger to decry police entrapment, shows how the Internet has become an effective tool of public protest in this tightly controlled country.

Almost every form of open dissent is outlawed in China, but mass protests organized online are increasingly putting pressure on police, judges and other officials -- and getting results.

Last June in Hubei province, an online campaign by netizens, as they are popularly called here, helped free a 22-year-old waitress arrested for killing a local official in what appeared to be a clear case of self-defense. In Nanjing, a top official was expelled from the Communist Party and jailed after angry netizens posted photos online of him smoking expensive cigarettes, sporting a pricey watch and driving a Cadillac.

Across the country, online petition drives and surveys have prompted police to reopen closed cases, authorities to cancel unpopular development projects and the party's national leadership to fire corrupt local officials.

In the view of academic experts, lawyers, bloggers and others here, the Internet is introducing a new measure of public accountability and civic action into China's closed and opaque political system."

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