She woke up people in China

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On Feb. 28 2015, Chai Jing, a former popular Chinese investigative journalist, released an almost 2-hour documentary named Under the Dome to reveal China’s air pollution situation. The documentary raised public attention about China’s heavily polluted air because it was a comprehensive look at air pollution with accurate statistics. The video went viral with more than 300 million viewers as of September 2016. She was self-funded with about 160,000 dollars that was almost all savings from her writing income and job as a journalist and host in CCTV. The documentary looked like a TED talk: she stood in the center of the stage and used PowerPoint, short videos and animations to help her audience to understand about how serious the air pollution was.

Chai’s speech opened with a darkened stage, lit only by a spotlight. She came out of the backstage slowly, dressing very simply in white cotton tops and blue jeans. She was 5 feet 4 inches and about 50kg. In the stage she looked small and slim. She was just wearing minimal makeup, matching her bob haircut, to look pale and natural.

When she started to speak, in a serious and peaceful tone, people would find the power behind her small body. It was a kind of calming power. All of her gestures and poses were restrained. She never made exaggerated movements, even though she talked about horrible facts. She just folded her arms, put her hand up from time to time.

At the beginning of the documentary, Chai told her audience that pregnancy changed her destiny. Her daughter had tumor in the womb, so she quit her job to take care of her baby. She thought the cause of tumor was the air pollution. Fortunately, her baby recovered fully through the surgery since birth. However, Chai feared that one day her daughter would ask her, “Why isn’t the sky blue? Why do you always keep me indoors?” when they lived in Beijing that was polluted 175 days within a year. Therefore, Chai began to investigate and interview this important air quality issue in China.

Under the Dome

In the documentary, Chai showed the results of her one-year research. She visited some factories and interviewed government officials and environmental experts. Based on her research, she criticized state-owned energy companies, steel producers, coal factories and the government for failing to implement valid management and regulation on pollution, and called on the people to take action. The documentary was widely described as China’s environmental awakening.

The video had an important impact on Chinese society. Numerous people shared this documentary in social media platforms such as Weibo and WeChat.

Many people praised the boldness of Chai’s work. I also really admire her. As a mother, she made efforts to change the world for her daughter to grow up under the blue sky. As an independent media professional, She used her influence and stood up to provide the public with scientific knowledge about smog. She pointed out this powerful enemy China are facing on her own and educated young people to become environmentalists. She achieved the impossible.

Chai Jing‘s publication: Kanjian or Insight Autobiography

I had met Chai once before in Fangsuo bookstore in Guangzhou. It was a lecture and book sale and signing. Some people lined up half an hour in advance. Because of the hot air, the new book written by Chai became wet with sweat in their hands. Large queues formed at the bookstore and snaked the way down the entrance, so almost one hundred staff kept order in the line. The bookstore had already closed. Any sounds made at the front of the line would cause people in the back to ask, “Is she coming? Already coming?”

When she stepped onto the stage, the room erupted into wild cheers and applause.

She signed for readers after the lecture. Consequently, books were sold out in the bookstore.

There is no doubt that Chai is one of the most popular journalists in China. She reported a serious pandemic, SARS, on the front line in 2003. She interviewed people in the Renmin hospital, the hardest hit by SARS.

Sometime she is extremely sharp. The interviewed official said other journalists never asked questions like her, and she stuck back that she never know such an unprofessional leader before. Sometimes she is gentle and kind. When Jiaxin Yao’s mother cried in the room, she walked into the room and put her hand on this sad mother’s shoulder.

She is deeply trusted and supported by people. She is softly spoken but she is regarded as the fighter in journalism.

In the lecture, her friend, Kui Yang, a publisher also went to support her. He talked to thousands of audience, “People labeled Chai too much: public intellectual, opinion leader or Huiyin Lin of the new era.” Chai just sat on the very edge of the white chair, impassive and expressionless. Her eyes were focused straight out and touched her black scarf. She knew that she cannot be loved by all, but she insisted that she was doing the right thing.

She is brilliant and talented. She exerts her own power and influence to improve the society and undertakes responsibility of a journalist. She really inspires me a lot.

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