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Comment Icon0 As a far-reaching method of gathering support for a particular cause, groups of activists sometimes launch web-based petitions as a substitute to traditional signature- gathering practice. On the 11th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, the Ding Zilin’s Tiananmen Mothers Campaign and Human Rights in China (HRIC) established a website that featured an online petition to the President of China. Accessible at FillTheSquare.org (Figure 22), the Tiananmen Mothers Campaign e-petition made demands for: (1) the right to mourn in public for victims of the crackdown; (2) the right to receive aid from organizations outside of China; (3) cessation of the persecution of victims of the crackdown and their family members; (4) the release of all individuals still imprisoned on June 4-related charges; and (5) a public accounting for the killings.


Figure 22: Online petitions: The Tiananmen Mothers Campaign e-petition at fillthesquare.org (HRIC, 2000).

Comment Icon0 As visible on the e-petition website, visitors get to place a “virtual bouquet” of six white and four red roses in a graphical representation of Tiananmen Square to mourn the victims of the June 4 crackdown in 1989. Maintained overseas in New York by HRIC, the e-petition also urges visitors to become “virtual human-rights activists” by forwarding information to friends, listserves and newsgroups, or by posting a link to the Tiananmen Mothers Campaign on their own websites (HRIC, 2000).

Comment Icon0 The Tiananmen Mothers Campaign e-petition was actually preceded a year earlier by a group led by Kyodo-exiled Chinese dissident Wang Dan, with an e-petition campaign calling for the reversal of the official verdict on the student demonstrations. Launched in New York on 15 January 1999 and active in 33 countries, the petition served to commemorate those who were killed in the Chinese military’s crackdown on the student demonstrators in 4 June 1989. Although Chinese authorities attempted to block access to Wang’s website at June4.org, an estimated 20,000 visitors signed the petition online, of which more than 2,000 signatures came from netizens who identified themselves as PRC residents (Global Petition Campaign, 1999). The electronic petition became available on a multitude of websites, including those of Amnesty International and HRIC, which eventually led to Wang’s group collecting more than 150,000 signatures. Interestingly, Internet users within China were witnessed posting the code “6+4=10” in chatrooms to mark the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. These cases prominently show how e-petitions can strategically complement traditional methods of campaigning.

Chapter 7.2.2 – Online Petitions

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