In 2008 the Chinese human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner (2010) Ai Weiwei launched a participatory journalism and crowdsourcing project. The project aims to discover the number and the names of the schoolchildren who died in the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake.
On May 12th, 2008, an 8 Richter-scale earthquake occurred in Sichuan province, China. Among the dead were over 5,000 schoolchildren. Weiwei traveled to the disaster zone to document the post-quake situation with his camera. He wanted to obtain more information about the death toll and the names of the children, but local officials obstructed his investigation.
The strength of Weiwei’s project is also his weakness. Because there is not anything like free press in China an independent project could really get some good results, but if the results would hurt the Chinese government the project will be obstructed, as already happened.
But there will never be free press in China if the society does not take action themselves. A citizens’ investigation is the only possible way to find the truth about this earthquake. Ai Weiwei recruited 100 volunteers for his investigation, he won the Nobel Peace Prize but he was also placed under house arrest.
Economically the Citizens’ investigation isn’t the best project, but ideologically these kind of start-ups can be of great meaning.