TBD Studio: Video By Dissenting Overseas Chinese Students

A still image from a TBD Studio video of songs dedicated to those suffering from the Chinese Communist Party, uploaded April 3, 2020. Another of their videos is a COVID-19 timeline, uploaded May 6, 2020.

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 5, May 2020

TBD Studio

TBD Studio is a group of Mainland Chinese students who are studying abroad. TBD stands for “The Big Dipper.” The names they have chosen below preserve their anonymity.

Since the Chinese Communist Party took power in 1949, millions of Chinese people have been persecuted to death in numerous political movements. From the Cultural Revolution to the Tiananmen Massacre, to the persecution of religions and political dissidents, and to the oppression against freedom-fighting students in Hong Kong, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has never ceased to persecute the Chinese people. Its tyrannical control is second to none. In 2020, the coronavirus outbreak is tearing up families and inducing chaos worldwide — all because of the CCP’s suppression of freedom of speech. As overseas Mainland Chinese (海外中國人), we have no right to indifference or silence, but the responsibility to speak up for the voiceless and the powerless. This is why we began making videos. Here are our stories.

Xinyi (心怡)

When I was in middle school, I felt quite indifferent and unrelated to the things happening in China. Getting into a good university was my only goal in life. Later my Mom started to use a virtual private network (VPN), and she would always share what she had read on foreign websites with me. That was the first time I realized the dark side of communist China. My point of view was turned upside down after I went to study abroad. After I read multiple articles on June 4th Tiananmen Massacre, I felt almost desperate that my generation is not aware of how the CCP has persecuted our people. But at the same time, I felt the urge to tell the untold and pass on the courage and spirit of the June 4th movement.

Jiaxin (嘉昕)

I was lucky to learn at a young age about the catastrophic political movements initiated by the CCP. I would always share the true story of the Great Famine, the Cultural Revolution, and the Tiananmen Massacre to my friends, hoping that my trivial effort will give them a chance to choose who to believe. However, as I learned more about the suppression of human rights lawyers, religious dissidents, and the recent Hong Kong protesters, I became terrified about the risks of voicing my opinions. Last year, I spent a lot of time watching news about the Hong Kong movement, but I was too cowardly to actually get involved. In 2020, the CCP’s concealment of information regarding the coronavirus outbreak urges me to speak up. I realized that the Chinese government is afraid of the old for their memory, of the young for their passion, of churches, movies, music, and the free flow of information. Then why should we be afraid of them? With the encouragement of my teammates, I hope we can share some different perspectives to our peers.

Yuxuan (宇軒)

When I was growing up in China, I knew vaguely that some of the news might be fake, but I didn’t realize the severity and ubiquity of those lies. Nor did I have the motivation to look for the truth. In university, I have access to different perspectives and have learned about the absurdity of news in China. However, I stayed politically indifferent because I didn’t think that small acts will bring any changes. Many friends around me have a strong belief in CCP’s propaganda – it’s their only source of information growing up. My friends are all interesting and kind most of the time, but when it comes to problems of Chinese society, they become extremely nationalistic and zealous in the name of patriotism. They are unaware that they could have chosen different news reports to read. In other words, they have lost the opportunity to shake away the influence of brainwashing education. It’s sad to believe in the single voice that is allowed in a society. Thus, I would like to share different points of view to young Chinese people and pierce through their echo chamber.

Ruirui (蕊蕊)

To me, news media is something that can spread truth and sharpen the mind of the audience. Working in a media company has been my dream since childhood. I have volunteered and worked full-time in media companies for several years, from which I have gained many valuable insights. I am happy to see the positive influence a media press has when it places truthfulness as its core value. Meanwhile, I realized a drawback of traditional media – it can hardly reach people outside the echo chamber. I wondered if I could open up a YouTube channel, create my own content, and share viewpoints in a way more acceptable to the younger generation.