Inspired by a search for truth and the potential for fame, a young vegetable-seller from Hunan province challenges the boundaries of free speech by reporting on censored news stories in cities throughout China. And from the bustling streets of Beijing, a middle-aged writer sets off to make sense of his past by riding his bicycle across the mainland, documenting the struggles of villagers deep within China's countryside. Armed with laptops, cell phones and digital cameras, Zola and Tiger Temple travel the country as independent one-man news stations while learning to navigate China's evolving censorship regulations and avoiding the risk of political persecution. High Tech, Low Life captures the untold story of these citizen reporters and the achievements of a fearless new digital generation.
Two brave Chinese citizens try to help a cowed nation
Startling documentary about two "citizen reporters" in China who blog
about issues and conditions the government wants to keep quiet.
The bravery of this pair, who did not seem to know each other until
meeting at a conference, is stunning.
"Zola" -- is his name inspired by the French novelist who famously
dissented during the Dreyfus Affair? -- is a free-thinking 20-something
from a conventional, dirt-poor family in Hunan Province. (His mother
wishes he'd just sell vegetables while his father wants him to settle
down and marry.)
The divorced "Tiger Temple" is a world-weary 57-year-old who travels
thousands of miles through the countryside by bike, documenting
unglamorous problems like sewage that has flooded a village.
Zola, sometimes irreverent but always polite, complains of a Great
Firewall of China, the state entity that censors and blocks websites.
The government finds him so threatening that it bars him from leaving
the country to address a bloggers' conference in Germany.
And the authorities don't want Tiger in Beijing during a Communist
Party meeting, so 10 policemen ferry him 600 miles away to another
sprawling megalopolis, Xi'an, for a forced timeout. Naughty, naughty
I have the deepest admiration for these brave, lonely souls who risk
their well-being to help their fellow citizens! Along the way we see
many hints that Chinese people in the street are fed up and angry. They
show their receptivity to the muckrakers' efforts by allowing
themselves to be filmed and quoted. In one striking segment, a peasant
sings verse after verse of a bitter, allegorical protest song.
It's troubling to read in the epilogue that the now-married Zola has
fled to the relative sanctuary of Taiwan to pursue his activism. But
Tiger, who disconcertingly prematurely views himself as an old man,
continues his wanderings through the Chinese "wilderness," often
seemingly with nothing for respite but a harmonica.
Let's remember these guys and keep a watchful -- but caring! -- eye out
for them. The world community must show its support.
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