“The Death of Detainee Sun Zhigang” from 2003 was such a tremendous benchmark, shiny and high, for Chinese journalism. The story led to the initiation of a civil movement calling for an end to a controversial law that authorized local policemen to immediately detain and deport anyone who fails to present an ID card, temporary residential permit, or employee card.
Politicians took revenge, and the leaders of Southern Metropolis Daily were imprisoned for years on trumped-up corruption charges.
The 2003 story makes me so proud to be a journalist and it reminds me of the importance of remaining committed to the pursuit of truth. As censorship and the threat of getting jailed keeps growing, journalists, even those willing to go to jail, are left with little opportunity to publish stories promoting change. So many articles and news posts have been censored and blocked soon after their uploading, leaving the lonely “404” code on a blank web page.
It is a gloomy time of “404.” An increasing number of journalists are leaving reporting while a small group of them is keeping up the struggle. When I think of “The Death of Detainee Sun Zhigang,” I am inspired to keep pushing forward, inch by inch.