A Story of Kidnap and the Influence of Web 2.0 in China

This is just not a story of a kidnapped boy who is returned to his family three years later in China. It is a story of power; the beginnings of empowerment of the Chinese people and crucially the power of web 2.0. Lele is the boy taken from his family and his amazing story that has gripped the town of Qianjiang, in China. What is remarkable is that it wasn't the police who found Lele, it was his father, a poor, migrant worker who did it using Twitter-type microblogs; it was the influence of web 2.0. Twitter is banned in China but instead there are similar services that have millions of users. It is these platforms that are making a difference, giving ordinary Chinese people a voice they have never had before.

Lele's father Peng Gaofeng says, "I found him with the help of people from all walks of life, using the great platform of the internet. I'm really grateful. I want to say thanks to all the people who have helped me to find my son."

Lele was snatched outside his father's mobile phone shop in the southern city of Shenzhen. Security cameras caught the kidnap on film of a man carrying the boy away in the night. However, in spite of the video the police could not find Lele and instead the authorities pressurised Lele's father to give up his campaign to find his son. Peng Gaofeng refused to give up and instead found help from Deng Fei, a journalist, who has a massive following on the internet.

Deng Fei tweeted Lele's picture to his two million followers and well the rest was the magic of serendipity as someone saw it, spotted Lele 2,000km away from where he was kidnapped. Deng Fe says, “China's people, for so long controlled or ignored by the state, are discovering the power of the microblog. It can force change. With this tool, everyone can express themselves immediately. Things can no longer be kept secret. Microblogs break the monopoly on information. They mean it can flow freely. A lot of things in China are caused by the lack of transparency here. So a lot of things will change now." The first reunion of Lele with his father was filmed and tweeted live by journalist Deng Fei.

The people in China are starting to exercise their own rights as web 2.0 is giving them the opportunity to broadcast their personal thoughts, concerns and stories. Previously, the Communist Party has always dominated society; now microblogs create a medium where people who feel controlled can speak out freely, which also makes the microblogs a challenge to China's Communist Party and its control of the media...so could the government of China one day, like Egypt’s former ousted President, Mubarak shut them down web 2.0 if it feels things spiralling out of control?

Photo Credit: China's Human Rights