People power to cause Beijing’s Forbidden City Starbucks to close?
China’s growing blogosphere is demonstrating the power of the internet. It has turned on Starbucks, and the presence of a US coffee shop in the former imperial palace, as an insult to Chinese culture.
Starbucks opened in 2000 and the media backlash was so severe the museum authorities considered revoking its lease after a couple of months. Apparently in 2002 public protests led to a KFC outlet being expelled from Beihai Park, a former royal garden neighbouring the Forbidden City.
Hu Yong, a TV editor and blogger has reported that “Some things can be changed by public opinion in Chinese cyberspace,” and Rui Chenggang, a well-known anchorman on Chinese state TV, has posted an entry on his personal blog calling for Starbucks to be evicted from the Forbidden City.
Since that post went up the site has registered more than half a million hits and collected thousands of messages of support. One said: “What a humiliation for China, once it was military invasion, now it is economic invasion. Why can’t they just drink tea?”
The power of the internet
Rui, a 29 year old ‘rising star’ in Chinese TV who spent last year as a fellow at Yale says, “I did not expect this response…It just shows the power of the Internet.”
It seems this power is growing.
Even for those not especially interested in politics, “blogs tell me about things that are hot, like pop stars or new movies, and I can tell other people what I think,” says Qiao He, a young Chinese teacher. “I can speak my own mind, and maybe somebody will reply.”
Cyberspace is NOT easy to police for the Chinese Government or any other government. Citizen journalism is alive, well and growing. Although there have been some burblings about extreme opinions being put around by bloggers, given the links we are all used to with blogs, it’s not that hard to discern what’s extreme or unduly biased….is it?
From various reports it seem the current situation is:
The Forbidden City – home to 24 Chinese Emperors over 500 years, and where the Palace Museum is now found – covers 74 hectares in the heart of Beijing, north of Tiananmen Square. It was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Can YOU see citizen journalism influencing the Big End of town HERE – pollies and CEOs?