June 26th, 2012 | Global Times Whistleblowers deserve more tolerance and protection
Fang Zhouzi, a well-known fraud fighter, has been fiercely attacked by Han Han and his fans for challenging the authenticity of Han’s works. Last week, a newspaper questioned Fang’s methods of exposing frauds, leading to a new wave of strong criticism against him.
In fact, Fang is in a much less advantageous position compared with Han and the many other celebrities he has questioned. As he targets more high-profile people, he also offends more, so his chances of making mistakes increase. The public is increasingly holding a diversified view toward him.
Like a woodpecker, Fang picks out the “worms” – the tricks and deceptions in society. Though sometimes his methods of questioning have turned out to be wrong, the overall accuracy rate is quite convincing. Some celebrities have been forced to apologize for falsifying facts. Others have become more cautious and there are even individuals who have been utterly discredited because of his challenges.
Fang is very public in making his case and has been following pragmatic logic. Compared with his targets, who are often backed by an alliance of supporters, Fang is more like a lone fighter, though occasionally, he can receive support from a few volunteers.
Most Chinese are not used to a critical and skeptical social atmosphere. This is true not only with the government, but with the grass-root level and social elites as well.
In this sense, when Fang doubts an individual, an alignment formed by people holding the same values will take offense. His whistleblowing can quite often be over-interpreted.
Public fraud-fighters like Fang have an increasingly narrow space of existence.
Our society should rethink this phenomenon as academic fraud has shown no sign of being reduced. More people should be aware of the lack of critical thinking in contemporary society.
A social atmosphere with more tolerance and protection toward such skeptics needs to be created.
In addition, the legal system can be an effective tool for supporting rational whistleblowing. If Fang does make a mistake, interested parties can sue him, and he would consequently have to take legal responsibility.
But the reality is, almost no one has won a lawsuit against Fang for false accusations.
Considering his often inferior position compared with most social elites being questioned by him, the media should avoid interfering in conflicts or assisting opposing sides to gang up on Fang.
All public figures should have the awareness of accepting public supervision, including Fang himself. This is the premise of building a tolerant, diverse social atmosphere.
The author is a commentator with the Chinese edition of the Global Times.
By Shan Renping