Monday, October 17, 2005

Sailing the Censor Ship

In general censorship in China has been well documented, but few people outside of China are as aware of the degree of internet censorship. Known as the Great Firewall of China, internet censorship here is far-reaching, but at times rather ad-hoc. For example the BBC news sites are banned, yet other news sites are freely viewed. Not only are the BBC news sites banned, but other less ‘radical’ BBC sites, such as the ‘What Not To Wear’ BBC tv program web-site. Curiously some sites seem to be blocked for no reason at all. For example, why would the Australian Idol official website be blocked? It consists of a bunch of superstar wanna-bes, strutting around a stage performing covers of other superstars’ material, all competing to be the one least-hated by the audience. Yes, blocking it shows a rare display of good taste on behalf of the government, but it was hardly a national security threat to begin with.

Look here for ‘China Censoship For Dummies’ for a brief overview.

According to Human Rights Watch

China’s latest clampdown came on September 25, when the Ministry of Information Industry and the State Council, China’s cabinet, introduced “Rules on the Administration of Internet News Information Services to ensure that news reports are “serving socialism,” “upholding the interests of the state,” and “correctly guiding public opinion.” As Xinhua, China’s official news agency, stated, only “healthy and civilized news and information that is beneficial to the improvement of the quality of the nation, beneficial to economic development and conducive to social progress” will be allowed.

Official Chinese sources explain away the new regulations by invoking “national security,” the “public interest,” “state secrets,” and “social order,” ever-shifting terms left purposefully undefined in the interests of putting an end to words or activities that might challenge one-Party control.

The new regulations, an update of those in effect since 2000, hit at both websites and e-mail. They aim to prevent distribution of any uncensored version of a news event or commentary. Restrictions include all news related to “politics, economics, military affairs, foreign affairs, and social and public affairs, as well as…fast-breaking social events,” such as a coal mine disaster, an official demotion, a strike, or an organized protest against environmental degradation.

“The new regulations make the government and the Chinese Communist Party the only arbiter of what is ‘healthy and civilized,’” said Brad Adams, Asia Director of Human Rights Watch. “The Chinese authorities apparently think that keeping more than 100 million Internet users in the dark is better than allowing the peaceful exchange of opinions or expressions of grievances. This is Big Brother at its worst, and out of step with the direction of the rest of the world in the 21st century.”

As it stands, this blog, and all others hosted by blogspot, are blocked in China. I can only see my own blog by surfing through an anonymous proxy server (such as Anonymouse). So, considering I am not a threat to the innocent Chinese web surfer, studiously downloading Japanese porn in his spare time, I could probably write whatever I wanted here.

Assuming of course that I don’t mind being deported in the middle of the night at gun-point.

More than 60 Chinese are serving time in prison for the peaceful expression of their views over the Internet. Zheng Yichun, a freelance writer and poet, was sentenced on September 22, three days before the new regulations were issued, to serve seven years for essays on the Internet advocating political reform; on July 28, a Bengbu (Anhui province) court sentenced Zhang Lin to a five-year term for posting Internet articles and essays that were “contrary to the bases of the constitution” and “endangered national security”; and, on April 27, in a case in which Yahoo! provided his name to the authorities, Shi Tao received a ten-year term for sending information through a Yahoo! email account about a Communist Party decision to a New York-based website.

-Click here for full Human Rights Watch article

Ok, I take it all back. China is wonderful, not like Big Brother at all!

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