“Professor Li”, the Twitter account documenting social discontent in China

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To avoid censorship, more and more Chinese are using Western platforms such as Twitter to learn, but to testify. An account with a cat avatar nicknamed “Professor Li” gained hundreds of thousands of subscribers during the protests that rocked China last month.

From our correspondent in Beijing,

A crazy excavator tore off the roofs of cars at the exit of a Zhengzhou subway in central China, a gunshot overnight on Wednesday, December 14, the migrant worker who apparently could not find another way to collect his salary was shot by the police. These kinds of videos, you won’t see them in Chinese media. We found him on the Twitter account @whyyoutouzhele, alias “Professor Li”, a 30-year-old painter, who contacted Italy.

I don’t highlight social events, I record them. My intention is to document what the official media does not report. Many people today do this work on the internet. Internet users send me their videos, photos and information through private messaging on Twitter. I filter by news, what’s happening now and what’s most important. »

Let us know “live” on Twitter

Who is behind this “tiger-cat” avatar on Twitter, which we discovered during the Foxconn riots, then the “white papers” demonstrations against the zero Covid policy at the end of November? “Professor Li” live-tweeted the “mass incidents” happening simultaneously across the country, providing a rare picture of the protest. It is impossible to do this through Chinese networks, immediately censored. Therefore, it is necessary to go through foreign applications such as Instagram and Twitter.

More and more young Chinese are turning to Twitter for information. For this, they use a VPN to bypass the great Chinese computer wall. This is the only way to know what is happening in China. On Chinese networks, the news lasts five minutes, thirty minutes at most before censorship intervenes. So when they hear something is happening, but they don’t see anything in the media or on the networks, they jump over the firewall to Twitter, and get the latest information. “.

At the age of 30, who came to Italy to study art in 2016, the “Professor Li” account, which now has more than 870,000 subscribers, revealed that Chinese people are still looking for freedom of expression , after years to be quiet, as indicated by the blank sheets thrown away by the protesters.

Among the notable videos that have been published in recent weeks, the specific one of the revolt of the Apple subcontractor workers or even of this “superman” of Chongqing, a sad man who criticizes the health restrictions and supported by residents with the arrival of the font.

But also these slogans calling for the resignation of the Chinese president in Urumqi street in Shanghai on November 26. The unimaginable slogans of the previous day were encouraging the youth of Beijing to show the day after.

Anonymous for its safety

Publications that obtained Professor Li’s death threat on Twitter. I chose my pseudo at random. Anonymity is part of internet culture, but it’s also important for my own safety. Even away from China, I have to be careful. Yesterday, for example, I received urgent calls. The man on the phone said he was a food delivery man. He wanted my address, so you see, it’s quite dangerous. According to Italian newspapers, there are many Chinese policemen in Italy. So yes, I believe my safety is at risk. »

An anonymous account that will continue to sort and edit thousands of videos reporting on social movements in China. To his many accusers, Professor Li said that he has hardly left his keyboard except to feed his four cats in recent weeks, and that he sleeps little, due to the time difference between Rome and Beijing.

►Also read : China: at the end of “zero Covid”, rush to traditional medicine and peaches in syrup

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