Print 33 comment(s) - last by hashish2020.. on Dec 22 at 3:34 AM

Just when you thought China had softened on web crack-downs, it returns to its old ways

China has not exactly been known for its great freedom of speech.  Its citizens' internet access is tightly controlled by a vast firewall -- a digital Great Wall of sorts.  Those that voice their dissent on the internet are swiftly arrested.

However, with its bid for the summer Olympics on the line, China made promises to the international community that it would change.  After winning the right to host the Summer 2008 games, it indeed began to quietly unblock American websites, and make good on promises to allow its guest unrestricted access to the web.

With the glow of the Olympics fading, though, China has already begun to turn its back on its promises to support a free internet, slamming the door shut once again.  Reporters in China have found that China has begun re-blocking foreign news websites, including the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) and Voice of America, along with the Hong Kong-based media Ming Pao and Asiaweek.

Reporters Without Borders slammed China's behavior in a statement, saying, "Right now, the authorities are gradually rolling back all the progress made in the run-up to this summer's Olympic games, when even foreign Web sites in Mandarin were made accessible. The pretense of liberalization is now over."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao defended his country's decision this week, saying that foreign news agencies have broken Chinese laws.  Among their alleged offenses was calling Taiwan a nation, a crime in China.  Taiwan separated from China and its sovereignty is not recognized, in fact China has at times threatened to use force to reclaim this state.  Mr. Liu stated, "I hope that these Web sites exercise self-discipline and abide by the Chinese laws, in order to pave the way for better Internet cooperation."

During the Olympics in August, the BBC site and Human Rights Watch were made accessible in China after public outcry.  However, Rebecca MacKinnon, a journalism professor who teaches about media and the Internet at the University of Hong Kong, said the reblocking of the sites was just a matter of time.  She states, "I don't think very many people expected to see the Olympics herald a whole new era in China, at least not as far as politics and media."

While disappointed by China breaking its promises, she is not surprised.  She says China's censorship tends to go in cycles where it relaxes and then becomes stricter only to relax again.  Further, with the foreign press no longer in town, it’s easier to suppress among the country's 250 million internet active citizens.

China is currently facing greater social unrest, thanks to a battered economy.  A group of 300 writers and academics recently created a manifesto dubbed "Charter 8" which is calling on China's government to end one party rule.  China has begun efforts to crack down on those who created the report, arresting several, and is also blocking its proliferation on the internet.

Nicholas Bequelin, Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch believes that China's new internet censorship efforts are ultimately doomed, though.  He states, "The free flow of information in China now is huge. Jailing journalists, closing down Web sites and blocking foreign Web sites, even arresting people like (dissident writer) Hu Jia and Liu Xiaobo, it's illusory to think that's going to stop Chinese society from demanding more accountability, rights and more transparency."

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By Chris Peredun on 12/18/2008 9:15:20 AM , Rating: 5
Personally, I don't recall ever having thought that.

By Moishe on 12/18/2008 9:23:55 AM , Rating: 5
Absolutely. Only the foolish would fail to see through the blatant PR scheme that was used during the Olympics.

The Chinese government is interested in control no matter what they say from one moment to the next.

By Bateluer on 12/18/2008 9:37:23 AM , Rating: 5
They barely unrestricted the net during the Olympics, with many news sites still blocked or filtered. It isn't any surprise they've attempted to seal the door again.

Looks like the Chinese people want free speech, I support their fight for it wish them well.

By Regs on 12/18/2008 9:19:40 PM , Rating: 1
I don't care how much money China has. They live in a sh*t hole and their government still thinks we live in the 19th century. Super power? Maybe they should cut out their cancer before they decide to step in our realm.

By jRaskell on 12/18/2008 11:55:16 AM , Rating: 4
The Chinese government is interested in control no matter what they say from one moment to the next.

You're being too specific there. Government in general is interested in control no matter what they say. Most Governments are just dealing with a citizenship that demands greater freedoms.

By FITCamaro on 12/18/2008 9:30:18 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed. If this surprises anyone they've clearly been smoking too much pot.

By Dreifort on 12/18/2008 9:52:58 AM , Rating: 2
not in America... there is a pot censorship here.

ppl still smoke pot, but they get carted away whenever they get caught. some are even forced into labor camps.

By TheSpaniard on 12/18/2008 9:59:24 AM , Rating: 2
really? where are these pot labor plants?

is it clearing those pot fields planted in our nations (US) national parks?

By rcc on 12/18/2008 10:46:37 AM , Rating: 3
lol, no. The labor camp is the normal job market. Once they clean up enough to see through the haze and realize they should be a productive member of society.

I know, it's a horrifying thought.

By TheSpaniard on 12/18/2008 11:01:19 AM , Rating: 2

my god, work? these poor people!

/light-hearted sarcasm

doesn't that normally happen around 30 anyways?

By VashHT on 12/18/2008 12:23:23 PM , Rating: 3
I know plenty of productive people who smoke pot. You guys shouldn't listen to everything you hear, pot is no worse than having a drink every night like most Americans do.

By SandmanWN on 12/18/2008 12:33:20 PM , Rating: 1
We're supposed to drink every night? By God what have I been missing!!!

I would be willing to wager I know even more people who smoke that are positively worthless.

By CommodoreVic20 on 12/18/2008 1:30:10 PM , Rating: 2
Legalize it and I will advertise it.

By TheSpaniard on 12/18/2008 5:16:27 PM , Rating: 2
god if they legalize it, into a gated community I go.

I hate smelling the neighbors smoke, pot is so much more pungent I would have to move to an area where it was banned

By omnicronx on 12/18/2008 4:21:26 PM , Rating: 2
If this surprises anyone they've clearly been smoking too much pot.
Weird.. I'm not surprised at all..

By Motoman on 12/18/2008 10:35:05 AM , Rating: 2
"No, Virginia, there really isn't a Santa Claus."'s tempting to call China the most abusive government in the world...but, well, there's Mugabe at the very least I guess...

There's a whole lot of trouble brewing in states like China and North Korea that try to enforce the stupidity of their citizens. I have no doubt that their populaces are now aware that the emperor has no clothes...just a matter of when & how they do something about it.

By TomZ on 12/18/2008 12:24:32 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure you mean enforce the ignorance , not the stupidity.

By Motoman on 12/18/2008 1:14:34 PM , Rating: 2
...indeed. I stand corrected.

By omnicronx on 12/18/2008 4:32:28 PM , Rating: 3
In all seriousness, China barely has the resources for its current economic boom, imagine if every person from China expected the rights and liberties of that in the U.S. If you did not get where I was going, there would not be enough resources, not even close.

By Motoman on 12/19/2008 1:56:37 AM , Rating: 2
...what? Rights and liberties don't cost anything. Having the right to speak your mind...the liberty to seek knowledge...what resources do those things consume?

By SRoode on 12/19/2008 5:34:40 PM , Rating: 2
It's only a matter of time. As a society becomes educated (which is required to become a modern "Westernized" type society), they eventually learn to think for themselves. Communist China will fall within 20 years and become Westernized, because they will "want" what they have worked for.

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