Deng Fei is arguably the most successful social entrepreneur in China. He has four million followers in his Sina Weibo account (China’s Twitter). His project Mianfei Wucan (which provides free lunch for children in impoverished rural areas) has raised a record amount of money through micro-donations by netizens. He has also created a number of NGOs in fields such as left-behind children, rural poverty and children kidnapping. He is well connected and works within the confines of the system established by the Government. His ventures have contributed to raise awareness and influence governmental policy in some of China’s most pressing problems.
Da Shi is a young environmental activist from Shaoxing, a small industrial city in Zhejiang province. He left the factory he was working for after exposing the company for illegally dumping toxic waste in a nearby river. He then founded an NGO and started tracking down similar situations in other industrial facilities in the city. He uses social media to denounce and raise public awareness about environmental degradation. His work has led to numerous administrative sanctions to these companies. He operates within the boundaries of the system, but has often been threatened by corporate thugs.
Zhang Zhiru is a labor activist working in Shenzhen (Guangdong province), the country’s biggest industrial cluster. Born in the countryside, he migrated decades ago to the area to toil in shoe manufacturing sweatshops. He suffered abuses and a workplace accident whose treatment the company refused to cover. He then started learning law and advising other people in similar situations. He has since been involved in the organization of numerous strikes and the formation of independent trade unions in many factories. He operates in the margins of what is tolerated by the Government and has been harassed by the police and forced to leave his home 13 times in the last few years.
Hu Jia is one of the most prominent political dissidents in China. His work has focused on the Chinese pro-democracy movement, the environment and HIV/AIDS. He was jailed in 2008, after being sentenced to 3.5 years on charges of “inciting subversion of state power”. He now lives constantly under surveillance and often, especially on politically sensitive dates, under house arrest. He wants, in his own words, “to destroy CCP regime”, and has promised to fight to achieve this goal until the end. He was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2008.