Bitten by Truth

'High Tech, Low Life' explores citizen reporting in China

Bitten by Truth

Zhou Shuguang seems like an unlikely enemy of the state. He runs a mobile grocery in the People's Republic of China and keeps a personal blog. "The truth is, I don't know what journalism is," he tells his camera, but that has not stopped him from becoming one of China's first citizen reporters.

Truth, as High Tech, Low Life shows, is a dangerous beast. The Chinese government, like all dictatorships, knows it. China's bloggers like Zhang Shihe, who writes under the nom de plume Tiger Temple, are learning that lesson. He squats in flax fields along the Yellow River as farmers describe how they are crushed by their government – and, increasingly, by Beijing's corporate allies. He has become their father confessor and itinerant legal advisor, telling documentarian Stephen Maing, "I feel a sense of responsibility beyond just reporting on them." He also knows when he is being trailed by intelligence agencies, proving the dangers of his adopted trade. If a respected Internet activist like Aaron Swartz can be hounded to his death by federal agents in the U.S. over academic papers, imagine the peril faced by unsanctioned reporters in one of the most repressive nations on Earth.

China has a schizophrenic relationship with the Internet. It sees the commercial advantages, but blocks its citizens from viewing tens of thousands of common websites, and international civil rights groups estimate there are 40,000 police and intelligence officers patrolling the Web for dissidents. Just asking questions is bad enough, but to put the answers on the Internet is an invitation to repression. The idea that a couple of amateur bloggers, traversing the nation on bicycles, reporting with cell phones and battered digital cameras, could be a threat to the Chinese government seems laughable. Yet that's how they are treated, as China replaces the Great Wall with the Great Firewall.

As High Tech, Low Life shows, truth is a dangerous beast, and the wrong people can get bitten. n


AFS Doc Nights presents High Tech, Low Life on Wednesday, April 10, 7pm, at the Alamo Drafthouse Village; see www.austinfilm.org for ticket info. Follow Shuguang's reporting at www.zuola.com.

READ MORE
More Austin Film Society
The Austin Film Society Unveils Its New Home for Cinema
The Austin Film Society Unveils Its New Home for Cinema
Two-screen theatre will showcase the best of new and classic arthouse cinema

Richard Whittaker, May 26, 2017

Lovers, Sinners, and Saints
Lovers, Sinners, and Saints
New AFS series shines a light on Maurice Pialat

Josh Kupecki, July 1, 2016

More by Richard Whittaker
Who’s Carrying Water for Greg Abbott?
Who’s Carrying Water for Greg Abbott?
The governor’s got his rogues’ gallery of lawmakers

June 30, 2017

Billion-Dollar AISD Bond Goes to Vote in November
Billion-Dollar AISD Bond Goes to Vote in November
"This is a bond that touches every single one of our students and every single one of our campuses."

June 30, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Film Society, AFS Doc Nights, High Tech, Low Life, Zhou Shuguang, China, Stephen Maing, Internet, Zhang Shihe, journalism, blogging

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)