The #MeToo movement which has caused huge waves in the Western hemisphere, especially its entertainment industry, has also manifested in China. Allegations of a covered-up sexual assault have recently surfaced, with students requesting to investigate the case of Gao Yan, a former student of the prestigious Peking University. She accused a professor of raping her back in 1998, which led to her committing suicide shortly after. The alleged rapist remained in the faculty for years after the incident.
More similar reports have been publicized since then, with the movement gaining significant traction in social media. A student named Yue Xin wrote a public letter in popular platforms Weibo and WeChat, requesting an official investigation, which quickly became viral and gathered thousands of shares. Sadly, as is often the case in China, the official censorship was not fond of such activism and the letter was quickly deleted.
The Chinese supporters of the cause used creativity to avoid the watchdogs by flipping or distorting the images. Xin publicly claimed that the university tried to intimidate her into silence and asked her parents to confine her in the family home.
However, Ethereum blockchain technology has now ensured this letter could never be erased or even touched by the censors. An anonymous user has attached Xin’s letter to a minuscule 0.0008 ETH transaction, which means it is now permanently stored in the public domain. While it will not be easy for the general public to access, since usually crypto users do not scan the blockchain layers for hidden messages, this is more of a symbolic act of dissent in a country where protests against authority are almost unheard-of in recent years.
Du Guang, a former researcher at Central Party School said that “This is the biggest incident in more than 10 years that students decided to ask the authorities to do more to boost transparency. This incident reminds me of the student movements in the early Communist era.“ We certainly hope things will not turn as sour as they did in 1989 at Tiananmen Square.
The message has also acted as a gateway, sparking support from others in China with members of at least three other universities posting messages on Ethereum blockchain. It might be the only way for the Chinese to avoid strict censorship which not only targets original posts but reposts from other users as well. WeChat has quickly blocked users from accessing this particular blockchain transaction page etherscan.io, although the website itself is still accessible.
The university, which is an alma mater for many senior Chinese Communist Party officials has published an official statement on its website saying that, “We have always respected the basic rights of every student and we strive to protect the legitimate rights and interests of every student.“
This incident also lets us see the blockchain potential in defying censorship. Chinese users on Etherscan call the transaction as “historic” and even though it will be seen by a tiny fraction of the Chinese population, the censors must be fuming at their inability to erase it. Referring to the error code that marks a missing website, one user commented, “There’s no 404, it’s permanent.“
Image Source: “Flickr”