Looking at the construction site from a nearby light rail station (right)
Being perhaps the first non-journalist blogger in China to do original field reporting, Zola Zhou, a 26-year-old Hunan native, boarded a train on Monday and arrived in Chongqing early Wednesday “like a crazy rock,” on his own expense.
“News sensitivity and the desire to become famous overnight” brought him to Chongqing, he writes in his blog entry. By asking around, he found his way to the construction site where the nail house was still standing.
On Wednesday afternoon, he met Wu Ping. “Seeing her with my own eyes, [I] do not think she looks like a tough spicy girl [Chongqing women are nick-named “spicy girl” for their well-known pungent style], but an intelligent and well-mannered intellectual,” Mr. Zhou wrote. “[She] talked appropriately, like an experienced spokeswoman.”
He only had a two-minute conversation with Ms. Wu, who told him that despite the widespread rumor about her special background, the only background she had was “the law.” She also told Zhou to “be careful of health and safety.”
“Her heart is calm and strong, and deserves my trust and support,” Mr. Zhou wrote in his blog, published sometimes via his cellphone right on the scene.
Interestingly enough, Mr. Zhou met other home owners from Shanghai, Guangzhong, Zhuhai, Chengdu and Xi’an, who gathered at Wu Ping’s property site to propagate their own story of losing homes to redevelopment projects, since this place has attracted many journalists, domestic and foreign.
These people brought over pictures of their demolished houses, documents proving their legitimate rights to the properties and signs denouncing the government or claiming their own rights. A man from Xi’an even gave a public speech at the construction site, opposing the use of “nail house” on those who defend their properties, Mr. Zhou reported. Local people also told him that several cameras were installed in the trees and on the walls surrounding the site.
But what he reported is not as extraordinary as the reporting journey itself.
His action has won almost universal support in China’s cyberspace. Hundreds of people left comments on his blog and other sites that republished his posts, among which the words “support,” “be safe” and “be careful” appear most frequently. His readers apparently are concerned that he may get into trouble with the authorities.
Mr. Zhou is hailed by many as a grassroot hero as well as a “citizen journalist,” or “independent journalist.” Some praised Zhou as making history among Chinese bloggers by doing such original reporting, and called his endeavor revolutionary.
People expressed their disappointment and distrust of official media, while placing on Mr. Zhou their hope of getting the true story of the incident. “Now only such an individual media like you is trust worthy,” a web user named Jorin writes.
Another poster says he heard rumors that the house has been demolished, only to find the information untrue after reading Zhou’s report.
“Keep digging deep, looks like [I] can only know the truth from you,” a poster named HP writes.
People not only give him emotional support, but material one, too. By Thursday, supporters have wired about 1700 yuan (more than $200) to Zhou's bank card and telephone card. “I am not alone,” Zhou writes.
Currently not employed, Mr. Zhou has been spending a lot of time maintaining several websites of his own. He had received some computer skill training but never went to college. He described himself as an optimistic guy, “willing to help those who are really in need,” and aiming at becoming a “righteous, strong and dare-to-dream man with money.”
This young man has also been influenced by the entertaining spirit of the media culture in Hunnan, and claims his website to “entertain the mass,” a task he has well fulfilled with the field reporting from Chongqing.
Zhou’s Chongqing journal
Photos taken by Zhou in Chongqing