An article in today’s New York Times points out that the Chinese Internet is more about entertainment than anything else — a point made many times on this blog, most recently in regard to Google’s withdrawal. The author, David Barboza, also notes:
The surprising power of online communities in China has Communist Party leaders worried about the ability of online social networks to spread viral messages that could ignite social movements, and pose a challenge to the party and its leaders. They saw what happened to Han Feng, a midlevel party official in southern China, when his private diary was recently posted online.
However, the article in the English edition of Global Times that the link in the quote points to suggests that the case of this official is not a good example for the power of the huddled online masses to target individuals, rightly or wrongly, in human flesh searches. Rather, it seems to suggest a deviation from this trend. As the article points out, the initial outrage gave way to overwhelming online support for the official (facing ten years in prison), spearheaded by Han Han, as someone who has at least been honest in his accounting for his affairs and not harmed others. Despite the irony of the statement, the tide of opinion is clearly in support of Han Feng, the official.
So is this just an example of how fickle online mobs are? Or the beginning of a new trend?