High Tech Low Life: A Documentary

Article by Raymond Mei
Edited by Yvonne Lo

High Tech Low Life is a documentary directed by award-winning filmmaker Stephen Maing. This documentary chronicles two of China’s first citizen reporters as they travel the country documenting under-reported news and social issues with their hand-held devices. The stories that they share on their blogs face censorship by the Chinese government for leaping China’s ‘Great Firewall’.

Zhang Shihe also known as “Tiger Temple” is known as the first citizen reporter of China. The 57-year old man started his reporting after witnessing and recording a horrific murder unfold before his eyes. He called the police only to have them arrive and scrutinize him for recording the event, rather than immediately tending to the victim. Tiger Temple is from an older generation of Chinese citizens who’s seen the changes in China’s communist party over the years and how they treat their citizens. He believes the control and unfair treatment by the Chinese governments need to stop.

Similarly, another well-known citizen reporter and blogger is “Zola”, Zhou Shuguang. Like Tiger Temple, the 26 year-old want to share and uncover China’s under-reported news and social issues. Zola began is reporting when he covered a story about a local family resisting eviction by city developers. After sharing this story of a family’s determination to resist the force by the government, Zola’s blog received a lot of hits and positive feedback. This would set off other numerous stories in which he shares and post on his blogs with satire, challenging the extent of China’s free speech.

Both citizen reporters are tech-savvy with their laptops, cell phones and digital cameras as they travel to different areas in China committed to provide a voice for the people who are suffering. Although both of them are doing what they honestly believe is righteous, important and a social responsibility, China’s evolving censorship threatens their safety and puts them at risk for political prosecution. This documentary follows their lives as they pave a path for future citizen reporters and bloggers to express and expose untold stories of China’s lack of social responsibility to their people and the growing censorship of the Internet.

Director Stephen Maing wanted to document stories of China’s ‘netizen’, after learning about the limitations of their Internet by the Great Firewall installed by the government. Maing was intrigued by citizens who were rebellious against the online barriers. He wanted to document stories about youth, activism and technology. Through the course of filming this documentary of just two of many increasing citizen reporters, Maing uncovered greater and deeper stories about China’s restrictions against the people as the future of the government and online journalism rapidly evolve.

For more: http://hightechlowlifefilm.com

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