I learned today that the popular internet (in particular, microblog) campaign to track down and rescue kidnapped child beggars–which I wrote about last week–has suddenly started receiving an increasingly negative portrayal in the Chinese media and from some portions of the online community. Chinageeks gives the whole story, in particular a rebuttal to the prominent Global Times editorial which criticizes the campaign
So what’s going on? A couple things. First, there’s the natural, contrarian reaction that some people often have when something becomes popular overnight. But the bigger theme, I think, plays out pretty clearly in the Global Times article I quoted from above. The government — and its army of media spin artists — have realized the dangerous precedent this campaign sets. People are completely circumventing all State authority and addressing a social problem directly. I think someone up top realized that while it may be good in this case, that’s not a model for social change that the government can afford to let become popular. They can’t just shut down the campaign, of course …but they can chip away at it in the media, raising doubts.
It’s more than a little tragic that this spontaneous, grassroots campaign, even though it emerged to address a social issue with almost no political implications whatsoever, is nonetheless being targeted as a political threat simply because it represents a conduit for social organization outside of the government. This seems to me to be a harder-lined position than the government has taken on an issue of this size in a while. I’m definitely going to keep following this story and the reactions to it as it develops.