One woman pushing China's free-speech limits

(CBS News) This week, China's ruling Communist Party will formally anoint the country's new leadership. Dissent is rarely tolerated in China, but one prominent woman is not afraid to voice her criticism of the government.

In a country of 1.3 billion people, Hung Huang stands out. She's a doting mother, a columnist, a blogger. She owns a high-end fashion boutique, publishes a trendy fashion magazine. She's a taste-maker and opinion-maker known for her bold fashion statements and her bold statements.

When contemplating whether all the communists in China believe in communism, Hung called that "the biggest joke," adding that they believe in "money, for sure."

Her mother was Mao Zedong's English tutor and translator during President Nixon's visit. Hung was educated in the U.S. at Vassar. She loves to promote Chinese design as much as she loves to poke China's leaders for arrogance and corruption.

"If I see something I don't like, I'll just say something. I am just a blabbermouth," Hung said. "I think it's part of my American education more than anything else."

When asked how she gets away with, she said: "How do they get away with it is the question. Really!"

In a country with little tolerance for dissent, Hung boldly pushes the limits. She had a talk show, but walked away because the government censored her guests. She now has almost six million followers on China's version of Twitter.

Hung said there are three "T"s that are taking it too far and you don't talk about: Tibet, Taiwan, and Tiananmen.

Still, she is seeing China change. When high-ranking political leader Bo Xilai recently was brought down by scandal, his wife convicted of killing a British businessman, millions of others joined her in a freewheeling internet discussion.

"I think it's a huge crack in the wall for sure, because I don't think any political problems have been played out in public ever before," Hung said.

Her mother was arrested during the Cultural Revolution. She wants her daughter's China to be a more open place. She hopes new leaders picked at the party congress will be agents of change.

"The change of leadership gives people reason to hope. There is an opportunity there. There is a possibility," Hung said.

If not, Hung Huang will speak out.

  • Bill Whitaker

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