18,000 Virtual Protesters Go Live in Beijing

August 17, 2008 Updated: October 1, 2015

The three official Beijing protest zones may be empty, but internet savvy activists are finding a way around security by joining a virtual protest.

As of Sunday August 17, over 18,100 people have demonstrated online against lack of freedom of expression in China.

Advocator of free press, Reporters Without Borders (RFS), instigated an online virtual demonstration outside Beijing's Olympic Stadium ahead of the Games’ opening ceremony to protest the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) suppression of freedom of speech and call for the release of political prisoners.

Each virtual demonstrator can pick from among five placards with slogans reading, “I boycott the Olympics opening ceremony!” “Yes to sport, no to repression,” “No Olympic Games without freedom,” “Olympic ideals betrayed, IOC accomplice,” and “Free Olympic prisoners!”

After joining the unusual picket line in front of the Birds Nest, you get a placard assigned with a slogan and also see who else is demonstrating. Many Chinese have joined the protest, as they find a new way of online expression.

RFS and the virtual protesters are calling for the release of all Olympic prisoners. One such person is human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng. He is renowned for standing up for the likes of the poor, AIDS victims of bad blood, petitioners and Falun Gong. He was taken by Public Security Bureau police in November last year.

A source close to Gao's family revealed in early August that the attorney spent two months suffering severe torture, including being beaten and having Chinese guards urinating on him. Mr Gao has been removed from Beijing for the duration of the Olympics.

Another dissident is Hu Jia, again a Chinese human rights attorney, was last year imprisoned for 3.5 years, for “subversion” of the States power – the blanket charge used to jail dissidents. The day after the Olympics opening ceremony his wife, Zeng Jinyan, went missing and friends suspect that she has been detained by police.

The Olympic motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius, which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger”. The Olympic charter also promotes peace and harmony, which remain illusive in China.

Besides spearheading the virtual protest, RFS has made a number of public appearances in Beijing since the Games started, one involving a banner being unfurled on the state television building.

Follow Caden on Twitter: @cadenpearson