When riots broke out in Hong Kong, people on mainland China had no idea. The Chinese government censored their news to ensure their citizens would remain uninformed. According to USA TODAY journalist Calum MacLeod, the 2014 Umbrella Revolution saw Hong Kong citizens shielding themselves from tear gas and pepper spray behind umbrellas as they cried out for democracy. Since 1997, China has claimed to rule over Hong Kong as “one country, two systems” (qtd. in MacLeod par. 10). People living in the same “country” had no idea their neighbors were even in danger. To keep the Chinese people in the dark, the government blocked popular social media sites like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube (par. 10). The Umbrella Revolution is only one example of how the Chinese government controls what information the citizens can access.
Compare this to the freedom of the press in the United States. A great example of how intensely the American public is permitted to react presents itself in the 2014 Ferguson Riots. TIME Magazine testified that after Michael Brown was shot dead by officer Darren Wilson in August 2014, racial tensions in Ferguson, Missouri quickly turned into full-blown riots described as “nights of protests marred by spasms of violence” (Drehle et al par. 1).
Everyone in America was aware of the conflict, and the shot was heard around the world; even Chinese news outlets commented on the issue. Xinua news writer Li Li wrote that “the Ferguson incident once again demonstrates that even if in a country that has for years tried to play the role of an international human rights judge and defender, there is still much room for improvement at home” (qtd. in Leavenworth par. 5). Commentaries this strong are rarely published without the state’s consent (par. 6).
When the Ferguson riots occurred, debates were raging across the United States. The POLITICO Magazine article “In Missouri, Ferguson is Still Burning” details how the debate played out. Most citizens used social media platforms to express their opinions. Most notably, the activist group Black Lives Matter demanded some of the media spotlight (Severns par. 14). They still protest police brutality against black people, trying to raise awareness of the problem. This issue is still hotly debated, and it is often in direct conflict with the U.S. government, calling police brutality into question. Others were calling for a militarized police force to calm down the riots. Common citizens were demanding that Obama act (par. 11-13). Even American celebrities are expected to use social media platforms to influence people into action (par. 20).
MacLeod, Calum. “‘Umbrella revolution’ opens wide.” USA Today n.d.: Newspaper Source. 30 Sept. 2014. Web.
Drehle, David Von, et al. “The Tragedy Of Ferguson. (Cover Story).” Time 184.8 (2014): 22-27. Academic Search Premier. Web.
Leavenworth, Stuart. “China Chides U.S. over Ferguson Violence, American Racism.” McClatchyDC. N.p., 19 Aug. 2014. Web. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/article24772003.html.
Severns, Maggie. “In Missouri, Ferguson Is Still Burning.” POLITICO Magazine. POLITICO LLC, 31 July 2016. Web. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/07/2016-missouri-ferguson-gubernatorial-election-racism-214127.