Both B.Y.'s experience and the protest in Kunming reflect an increasingly outspoken movement of dissent in China, whether online or in the streets. Both are in large part thanks to the internet, a soapbox shared by millions. At the same time, government action and policy to quell any opposition is equally on display. In Kunming, the mayor's action was welcomed but promised to do little more than reiterate promises made by the company.
This week in Shanghai, after hundreds of residents in the Shongjiang district held three protests again plans for a new lithium battery factory, Shanghai Guoxuan New Energy dropped plans for the project. The company is promising to return the land to local authorities. That is one victory among many ongoing battles.
Far more common are examples of government censorship in overdrive.
The writer Muron Xuecan, who has over 8 million followers, compared the current climate to that of 1975, 1966 and 1989 – all pivotal points in Chinese history.
"Chinese intellectuals are feeling more or less the same fear as one does before an approaching mountain storm," he wrote in The Guardian on Thursday. "The scariest thing of all is not being silence or being sent to prison, it is the sense of powerlessness and uncertainty about what comes next."
This month several well-known bloggers with, collectively, millions of followers have had their accounts shut down. Murong's own Weibo account was cancelled after he came to the defense of He Bing. He, a professor at the Chinese University of Political Science who had over 430,000 followers, was accused of "purposely spreading rumors" by Beijing officials. Murong wrote:
"I am a 'big V' [verified user] on Weibo, possessing over 8.5 million followers across four web portals, and 3.96 million on Sina Weibo alone. In a period of over three years, I had posted more than 1,900 Weibo messages totaling more than 200,000 words…in a split second, however, they were all brought to naught."
His followers held a virtual candlelight vigil online, but Murong has been unable to re-register with Weibo.
"I am still scared," he wrote in The Guardian, "But I will not stop struggling because I believe my silence would only embolden those who are trampling on my rights."