Germany based Best of the Blogs (BOBs) – Deutsche Welle International Weblog Awards, announced this year’s winners yesterday. Chinese blogger and citizen journalist Zhou Shuguang was a member of the jury for the awards. He was invited to go to Germany to attend the award ceremony but the authorities would not allow him to leave the country.

Besides the bad news, there was also good news. Zeng Jinyan’s blog shared the Reporters Without Borders Prize with Persian blog 4equality. The BOBs staff contacted Zeng by phone to inform her about the award. When the staff asked her how she felt, Zeng was too tired to give any reaction but it cheered her up.

In response to the award, Zeng detailed the history of her blogging experience through a blog post titled, “Thanksgiving” (Simplified Chinese). She started blogging in 2005 after she read her friend’s blog and she thought it looked like fun. She has been writing in a diary as a habit she started when she was little. She thought blogging was simply posting her diary entries online limiting the access to a few friends.

Then on February 16, 2006, Hu Jia disappeared. Zeng thought that the police would return him home just like the previous times he disappeared. But this time around, the police denied they detained Hu Jia. Zeng became nervous and started looking everywhere for him. She also started posting updates of her search on the blog and later opened it to the public so more people could help her look for Hu Jia.

Hu Jia returned home after disappearing for 41 days. By that time, Zeng wasn’t sure if she should continue updating her blog or return it to private access. She fell in love with blogging. She made friends with a lot of like-minded people whom she wanted to maintain contacts. She also thought about what to do the next time Hu Jia disappears. She consulted with several veterans who encouraged her to continue blogging.

By 2007, a friend told her he could no longer read her blog because most of the content made him feel suppressed. Although he was already aware of the reality in society, Zeng’s blog re-posted this reality and brought him unbearable pain. Zeng was feeling exhausted for a while and felt very pessimistic about the current situation of China’s human rights. But when she heard the appeals and calls for help from human rights defenders and their families, she hoped the rest of the world could hear those stories and that she could make a small contribution to China’s human rights movement. On May 6, 2007, she was interviewed by Time magazine for its Time 100 Most Influential People in the World. In the interview, she explained blogging has very important significance and role in an environment where freedom of expression is limited.

Now, she feels the same about blogging and even becomes optimistic. Blogs can be a completely independent medium as long as you insist on speaking the truth, writing about what is happening around you, and insist on independent thinking. Or if you focus on a specific topic, your blog will eventually become its own brand and it can become a trusted source in a society overloaded with information. And in a society filled with hollow propaganda news, blogs are even more precious.

Zeng further explained that speaking the truth needs more than courage, it sometimes takes serious sacrifices. In your blog, you are not responsible for any political or for-profit organization, the leadership, or your boss. You are only responsible for your good conscience. You can express your personal feelings and even immature thoughts, and get inspired through discussions with other Internet users. Even traditional media and organizations started to distribute information through blogs because they cannot ignore the effectiveness and convenience of blogs. In China’s grassroots citizen movement, a lot of cases and topics are not allowed to be reported in traditional media so blogs fill this gap.

Zeng Jinyan concluded her blog post with the following:

One computer, one blog, limitless grassroots voices. When you carefully watch all the people speaking constantly, it looks like a giant wave from a distance. The invisible affects the visible. The wave advances and retreats with ease and it will eventually become an unstoppable surge.