Print 45 comment(s) - last by peteryang84.. on May 27 at 10:12 PM

Chinese censorship icon Jingjing.  (Source:

Jingjing and Chacha pop up when debates become heated, gently reminding users to "advance harmony."  (Source: Wired/Committee to Protect Journalists)
Surge in traffic from earthquake creates a short-lived gap in Chinese censor coverage

Freedom groups everywhere breathed a sigh of relief when, earlier this week, Chinese censors were reported to be buckling under the weight of a country eager to talk about its devastating 7.9 earthquake. Now, it appears, those groups may have been incorrect: China’s censors never went anywhere, and the country’s “Golden Shield” project appears to be back to normal.

Previous reporting on the topic revealed that Chinese news sources were “surprisingly frank” with their reporting, revealing an uncommon level of honesty for a government that, characteristically, heavily regulates the flow of negative information. Chinese bloggers were able to communicate freely in all but the most extreme of circumstances, and Chinese message boards were littered with a variety of thoughts on the earthquake, both good and bad.

While many were hoping that the censors’ visibly relaxed controls would be permanent, the Chinese government quickly rebounded to the old status quo as activity died down. Even worse; it appears that the government propaganda machine was in effect all along.

United States-based Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia program coordinator, Robert Dietz, noted that journalists “rushed to the scene,” and described a “general feeling that the government had lifted the restrictions on reporters.”

Instead, said Dietz, “the central propaganda department never stopped handing down directives, never stopped telling people how much to report.”

On the public front, Chinese netizens are gently reminded to “self-regulate” by the country’s cartoon censorship icons, Jingjing and Chacha. One example, provided to Wired’s Threat Level by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the line-drawn duo orders users to “advance harmony,” by popping up at the bottom of the user’s screen if they posted a comment considered inflammatory.

However small and short-lived it may have been, the gap in Chinese censorship coverage reveals an interesting gap in the regime’s armor: like most everything else, the “Golden Shield” project is not invincible. Chinese users have long known that they can circumvent government blacklists with proxy servers – something the government actively cracks down on, creating a game of cat and mouse – but now, apparently, they can flat-out overwhelm it too.

With the country reportedly encouraging up to 500 million of its rural citizens to migrate to urban population centers – putting each of those migrants all the closer to computers and cellphones – can internet censors keep up?

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RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By daInvincibleGama on 5/25/2008 4:22:02 PM , Rating: 2
Then where do you stop? How far is too far?

You censor the people spreading "false rumors about ammonia", and you try to make that acceptable by saying that is as far as the censorship will go.

Then, tomorrow, you censor people that accuse the govt. of corruption by saying it uses a "false premise" to create distrust of the government.

Slowly, but surely, there will be mission creep as more and more things get added into the censorship and propaganda. Next thing you know, the common man will not be able to say jack shit without approval from "all relevant government officials".

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By audiomaniaca on 5/25/2008 6:17:30 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe you don't know, but the Chinese Government has the habit of punishing corrupt politicians with death penalties. They're the first ones to make these things public.

Governments cannot censor and be corrupt at the same time. People are not dumb. Chinese are not stupid, as many might think.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By brenatevi on 5/25/2008 7:16:21 PM , Rating: 2
Governments cannot censor and be corrupt at the same time. People are not dumb. Chinese are not stupid, as many might think.
Yes, it can. Obviously you are not familiar with the Cultural Revolution. It was corrupt and it censored. If anything, censorship can make corruption worse, because officials can act without worries about being exposed for their crimes.

And are you certain that the officials that were executed were corrupt? The only source is the Chinese government, unlike in most free nations, where journalism will give you multiple sources, so for all we know, those officials might have been pro-democracy and the Chinese government was punishing them for it.

Not saying that the Chinese are stupid, but even the most intelligent person can be mislead if the information the receive is faulty.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By audiomaniaca on 5/26/2008 10:10:45 AM , Rating: 2
Not the case in China. Obviously, you're not familiar with the country.

There's corruption in Taiwan, Thailand, Korea and other neighbors, but in Mainland China that's definitely not the case.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By Xietsu on 5/26/2008 10:26:16 AM , Rating: 2
In mainland China that's not the case? So it isn't corruption to you, to censor the liberties of your people with some contrived agenda? What is corrupt is your manner of conception. What is corrupt is will of the people being subjugated to be content with the circumstance as it is. It is nothing to them but a wish, nothing they believe they even have the ability to work toward, that of freedom.

And brenatevi, to think "the most intelligent" can be misled if "the information they receive is faulty", such is to improperly gauge that of intellect. Those who are of such stature take into account the advancement of any agenda under the prudence to potentiate as though their sources were spurious.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By audiomaniaca on 5/26/2008 9:00:28 PM , Rating: 2

In short terms, corruption is something against the law. Since limiting informations or controlling them are not against the law in China, it cannot be considered corruption. The laws are very well respected in China.

The Chinese people like their government and their government work for the people, but the world outside simply cannot understand it, because they have a distorted, westernized view of what freedom means.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By pxavierperez on 5/26/2008 10:06:39 PM , Rating: 2
That's really cool. I love that reasoning.

Like saying since stealing from the people is not prohibited by law in China then there is no theft crime in China.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By Xietsu on 5/27/2008 2:07:17 AM , Rating: 2
Heh. You look to the wisdom of none but that of man's, and such is truly tried to have its limits, as you show us in such swerving senses. Corruption is to compromise one's nature of credence, and for all who would consider these contemplations, that which is credible is often that which is without contempt. It is nothing but a thing of contention, to control communities with legal litigation over activities which ought not have anything but freedom reigning as it trounces censorship with righteous confiscation.

And what liberty does confiscate is that of complacency, where cares aren't made in manners of observation that ignore how life does obligate. It is a responsibility to all who live, to be open enough in perspective to let all come to empowering as though it weren't some aside, an elective. You who think of the world in terms of segregation, Eastern, Western separation in ideals, you who believes it is no plight to be complacent under China's totalitarian thoughts on what is right, you are one needing to confront yourself with a bane that is profusely bleeding.

To ever have to feel fear (whether of anxiety or prudence) for voicing your thoughts is nothing but state-sanctioned suppression and subliminally coerced mental depression. Are you one so primal as to perceive it profitable to make a rudimental regression? Even examining your expression, that privacy and paths to personal propagation are best overridden by governmental profession, I see that, here, you are one who cares for no struggle of the senses as, in your strained sight, you strip yourself of the shame you ought have, to look at this and not understand that many are to blame.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By eion on 5/27/2008 2:18:02 AM , Rating: 2
> "The laws are very well respected in China."

By who?!

At least at the provincial and municipal levels, I would describe petty corruption (from a western standpoint - such as buying meals, entertainment or travel for government officials, for example) as being endemic in China.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By peteryang84 on 5/27/2008 10:12:42 PM , Rating: 2
I am a Chinese.
Open Government Information (or whatever the name is) law was enacted on 1st May so limiting information IS now against the law.
Your observation about the chinese government is utterly untrue at best and your blindness to the suffering of ordinary chinese people caused by abuse of power is disheartening, because I myself am a victim. My father had a piece of land in the outskirt of Beijing which has been confiscated by local party chief and sold to a developer for profit, and the local court would NOT even accept the lawsuit!
"The Chinese people like their government and their government work for the people, but the world outside simply cannot understand it, because they have a distorted, westernized view of what freedom means. "
that deserves a big STFU from me, perhaps you are one zealous fenqing troll with senseless xenophobia who never read news except from xinhua or sina and who have never stepped outside of your dirty apartment room.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By Foxbat121 on 5/27/2008 9:47:02 AM , Rating: 3
I guess we have an official Chinese government agent posting here. No corruption in China? Laws well respected?

The common sense in china:

(1) Every government officials are presume corrupted. If you pay $$, you can get your way.

(2) There is no such thing as respecting Law, the only thing respected there is money. Money can buy you everything.

RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By audiomaniaca on 5/27/2008 8:30:38 PM , Rating: 2
Well, we'll have to censor you.

Let's common sense with sense:

1) Some or few government officials are corrupt anywhere in the world, from Switzerland to Timbuktu (not the case in China).

2) Could you please tell where in world money cannot buy everything?

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton
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