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Meet the 22-year-old geek behind the Chinese Jasmine Revolution

Sydney Morning Herald | April 7, 2011
A Chinese man who goes by the internet alias "Forest Intelligence" is a member of one group spreading anonymous calls online for pro-democracy protests in China.

They also are concerned that, with more than half their members outside China, their movement might be seen as a foreign-backed, anti-China plot rather than a response to real domestic problems.

"The revolution was started purely because of the failure of domestic affairs, not because of overseas forces," said "Hua Ge", a Columbia University graduate in classics who lives in New York and who, at 27, is one of the group's older members. He recruited the others.

The first online calls for a Chinese "Jasmine Revolution" - a Twitter post on February 17 and a longer appeal on the US-based Chinese news site Boxun.com on February 19 - remain anonymous.

Soon after they appeared, Hua Ge said that he, together with a man in China that he refused to identify, started the website Molihuaxingdong.blogspot.com.

"Molihuaxingdong" is Chinese for "Jasmine Movement" and it has evolved to include a Facebook page, a Twitter feed and Google groups for every Chinese province or territory. Many of the sites are blocked in China, but remain effective because so many Chinese know how to elude government blocks, Hua Ge said.

"People need to have some change in their thinking," said the native of the central Chinese city of Wuhan. "They don't really understand what rights they have, or what kind of political future they can choose."

Their main Google group has more than 1200 online users, though how many are inside China is unclear. An online survey posted in February received 300 responses, mostly from people in China, members said, and the group gets 50 to 100 emails daily from participants in the country.

Outside China, members are in the US, France, Australia, Canada, South Korea and Japan, among other countries.

Forest Intelligence oversees the recruitment of volunteers and maintains the website.

"Xiaomo", a 24-year-old college student in Paris, collates comments from surveys.

Boston-based student "Pamela Wang", 18, translates news articles into Chinese and is one of eight administrators of the group's Facebook page.

The eight members in China include an expert in online search engines, a former government employee who writes articles and someone who works on the website's layout, said Hua Ge. He refused to provide their contact information or reveal details about them out of concerns for their safety.

Hua Ge said the group had also consulted Wang Juntao, a prominent dissident sentenced to 13 years in prison for advising students during the 1989 pro-democracy protests centred on Tiananmen Square. Freed on medical parole in 1993, Wang now lives in New York and confirmed his assistance.

 

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