It seems that whilst I have been happily elaborating on the duties of my teaching position this week, and spending 5 minutes of class making my students aware of Earth Hour, that I have in fact been being slightly controversial. And… I’m glad. I’ve not been involved in anything even remotely underhand since I first came to China, and fell into a weekly underground class, with 5 students, talking politics and religion.

Earth Hour, for the uninformed, is simply about turning your lights out, for one hour, between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on the evening of Saturday 28th March 2009. China came on board this year, with Chinese branches of the WWF and other NGOs working hard to garner support from the big cities, and succeeding. Dongbei actress Li BingBing (see video above, in Mandarin), and globally recognised pianist LangLang (LangLang on YouTube, in English) adding their voices to the growing campaign.

However, in typical last minute style, the Beijing government realised that Earth Hour, with a magnificent sense of timing, would coincide with its newly created: Serf Liberation Day.

On the opening day of celebrations for Serf Liberation Day, the Associated Press reported that senior Communist Party leader Jia Qinglin said:

“Abolishing old Tibet’s theocratic feudal system is an important milestone in the world’s anti-slavery movement…. [and] is one of the greatest and most exciting events in human history.”

This golden (50 year) anniversary then, could not possibly be celebrated with, or worse, be overshadowed by, the voluntary darkness that Earth Hour stands for.

The Guardian reported the repercussions for Earth Hour this morning:

CCTV, the state broadcaster, has been ordered to scale back plans for day-long coverage of the switch-off around the world, but it will transmit highlights.
At Beijing University, the authorities have forbidden students from overtly participating in Earth Hour.

However, it’s not all bad news for energy’s 60 minutes of emancipation:

The Shanghai government has fully endorsed the event. Visitors to the Bund waterfront on Saturday will see the neon skyline across the river darken as the iconic Pearl Insurance Tower switches off along with the Jin Mao building and International Trade Centre. Illuminations will also be cut at Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, Baoding, Dalian, Nanjing and several technical universities.

More, or rather, less power to them!

… the dimming of lights… versus …the liberation of serfs…

Worthy of one of Steven’s cartoons, surely?



And where does that leave me, lone laowai teacher in a university in Beijing, probably less interested in liberated serfs than I should be, and undecided about the veracity of global warming, but convinced that we need to be aware of our energy usage regardless? I will be watching with interest,  from the 14th Floor, in the darkness, dimmed (hopefully) as the lights around the Bird’s Nest, for kindred spirits, and signs of a change.

And you?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you’re still in the dark about this somewhat “veiled” post:

Earth Hour’s official website is here, though I can’t access it in Beijing. Hmmm.

Earth Hour on YouTube

Serf Liberation Day according to the Economist, here.

Serf Liberation Day according to China Daily, here.


  1. Pingback: Reminder to turn stuff off: Earth Hour tonight | A China Blog on Suzhou Expat Life | The Humanaught

  2. Can’t access the Earth Hour website from Shandong Province either. Somehow I completely missed out on publicity for both Earth Hour and Serf Liberation Day. Hmm… which one should I celebrate…

  3. Great post Tam. Can’t access the Earth Hour site here in Suzhou either, but will be turning off my lights all the same.

    @globalgal: I actually first heard about Earth Hour from NatGeo (the National Geographic station on digital cable). They’re going dark for the hour and are marketing the shit out of it.

  4. Very good post, Tam; and thanks for the name-check. I quite often come up with a new cartoon idea, but then dismiss it as being too scathingly satirical, when i’m just trying to more gently poke fun.

    Anyway, it’s bizarre that the Earth Hour site is inaccessible. But then so is my favourite source of LOLcats – – so that highlights the insanity of trying to censor information.

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