#MeToo activists at Peking University have attempted to permanently log accusations of on-campus harassment on the Ethereum public blockchain, Quartz reports.
This story begins this year on April 5th, China’s national day for honouring the dead.
Inspired by recent #MeToo activism in China, including numerous reports of violence on campus, Li Youyou posted a story on social media about the death of her best friend in university, Gao Yan.
Li said Gao killed herself in1998 after Peking University officials dismissed Gao’s allegations claiming her literature professor had sexually assaulted her.
In the now famous post, Li Youyou named the accused professor, Shen Yang, and called on him to apologize.
In the years since Gao’s suicide, Shen has reportedly been teaching at a different prominent university. He has denied the allegations and claims he is being defamed.
Shortly after the Gao/Shen story went public, posts about the case began to steadily vanish Weibo and WeChat, as an unknown number of China’s estimated 2 million state censors began to diligently cleanse the story from the public record.
For a while, says Quartz, activists were able to preserve #MeToo posts online for slightly longer by switching the hashtag to #RiceBunny, a homonym in Chinese for #MeToo.
Anecdotes of abuse circulating in China this year have been substantiated by a recent survey conducted by a Chinese non-profit, which found that 70% of 6000 students polled said they’d experienced sexual harassment.
A few brave activists at Peking University took up the Gao case this year and petitioned the university for information on the case.
The university told the activists that, when Gao brought her story forward in 1998, they had decided that minute-taking was not warranted during the disciplinary hearing for Professor Shen.
The university also said it had lost the records of Shen’s ‘self review.’
Now employees at Peking University are accused of harassing one of the students who asked questions about the Gao/Shen case.
On April 23, 2018, Yue Xin, who had been involved with the petition at Peking University, wrote online that she and her mother were being repeatedly intimidated by Peking University staff.
Yue said her mother, who is terrified that Yue could be harmed for her activism, has forced her to move off campus and return home.
But Yue has promised not to back down:
“In the face of her sorrowful cry, self-sacrifice, kneeling requests, and threats of suicide, my heart is bleeding. In her plea, I can only return home temporarily, but I can’t stand back from principle.”
Then, like posts about the Gao/Shen case that had inspired her, Yue Xin’s posts also began disappearing from social media. Activists managed to briefly evade automated censors by posting Yue’s report upside down, but posts had nonetheless been critically diminished.
Then, on the 23rd of April, 2018, China’s censors abruptly lost this particular cat-and-mouse game when someone logged Yue Xin’s account of harassment “immutably” on Ethereum.
By appending the story to Ethereum, a public blockchain hosted all over the world on the Internet, activists hope the material will linger online forever beyond the reach of a single nation’s censors.
The report can now be read by anyone on any “block explorer” website like Etherscan, in either Mandarin or English (convert to UTF8).
China could conceivably still use it’s Great Firewall and legion censors to wall off block explorer sites as it has blocked so many others
But the cryptographic sealing on Ethereum means this story of #MeToo activism in China will remain publicly available for as long as the Ethereum blockchain persists in its current state.