An online petition site for the Chinese public to air their grievances crashed on its opening day on Monday to the mockery of Chinese netizens.
As the online counterpart to the long treks that petitioners make from their provinces to Beijing protesting a multitude of human rights abuses, the new State Bureau of Letters and Calls website is not without its flaws. The website has a two megabyte limit per petition case and can only be accessed on Internet Explorer.
Like the perilous journeys that petitioners make in real life, where hired men threaten them, or hold them captive in extralegal places of detention called “black jails,” the site comes along with its own safety hazards; for example, a requirement for petitioners to register with their real names.
Netizens on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging platform, were cautious of the police’s ability to track petitioners through the Internet. One netizen said, “The online petition requires one’s name, occupation, home address, telephone number, work unit; basically revealing one’s full identity. Probably few people will report on this site then.”
Another netizen, addressing himself as “Senior,” compared online petitioners to rabbits, saying “By leaving their IP addresses on the website, it’s getting easier and easier to catch them.”
Netizens on Weibo ridiculed the website for its low capacity server. Many netizens expressed doubt over the website, calling it “an April Fool’s day joke”, and a “nice stunt.”
A netizen calling himself “Fog 2009” said, “People come to the Bureau’s doorstep and are turned away; how will the Bureau treat online petitions?”
Chinese netizens flocked to the U.S. White House’s online petition page in May, gathering 100,000 signatures to bring to attention the poisoning of a college student that occurred 18 years ago whose perpetrator remains unpunished, possibly because of ties to Party officials. Shen Dingli, a professor at Fudan University, told the Associated Press that the netizen’s reliance on a foreign website indicated “the loss of credibility” of the Chinese regime.
Research by Ariel Tian.