Following a magnitude 6.6 earthquake in Sichuan Province in southwest China on April 20 that killed nearly two hundred people and injured thousands of others, local citizens and activists took to popular Chinese social media sites to coordinate volunteer efforts without government influence or encouragement, the reports.
Indeed, taking to such sites following a disaster reflects a growing trend in China in which citizens are attempting to do work they feel the Communist-ruled government "can't do," the Times reports. Microblogging sites such as Sina Weibo, which boasts 500 million users, help volunteers to coordinate their efforts and share information.
After the earthquake, Sichuan activist and sports commentator Li Chengpeng used Weibo to put together a group of volunteers that delivered supplies, including tents, water, and cooking oil, to quake-battered districts where government-provided supplies had not been delivered. Although the government has yet to acknowledge the work of activists like Chengpeng, it has been forced to adapt to the rise in online activism. According to the state-run People's Daily, three volunteers were recently selected to oversee the scandal-plagued 's response to the disaster and publicize their findings on Weibo.
"Civil society is much more capable today compared to 2008," Ran Yunfei, a known democracy activist and blogger, told the Times. "It's far easier now for volunteers to share information on what kind of help is needed."