Friday, June 29, 2007
Great Firewall of China
With just a year to go before the Olympics, I see that Reporters Without Borders has issued a reminder about how China continues to tighten the handcuffs around press freedom, censoring to the point of being paranoid. I know from contacts living in China that even this blog in English is on a black list apparently - must be the name of the blog or perhaps previous posts about why I think the Olypmics might fail (good job they were not held about now in Greece this year eh?). If you have ever been in Beijing in August you will know why I am not keen to head out there for sports in an oven. Dust storms mixed in with pollution. They may do something about the pollution levels for the period of the games. I wonder what they can do about the heat?
Now, a year before the opening ceremony, it is clear the Chinese government still sees the media and Internet as strategic sectors that cannot be left to the “hostile forces” denounced by President Hu Jintao. The departments of propaganda and public security and the cyber-police, all conservative bastions, implement censorship with scrupulous care.
At least 30 journalists and 50 Internet users are currently detained in China. Some of them since the 1980s. The government blocks access to thousands for news websites. It jams the Chinese, Tibetan and Uyghur-language programmes of 10 international radio stations on short and mediumwave. After focusing on websites and chat forums, the authorities are now concentrating on blogs and video-sharing sites. China’s blog services incorporate all the filters that block keywords considered “subversive” by the censors. The law severely punishes “divulging state secrets,” “subversion” and “defamation” - charges that are regularly used to silence the most outspoken critics. Although the rules for foreign journalists have been relaxed, it is still impossible for the international media to employ Chinese journalists or to move about freely in Tibet and Xinjiang.
The Chinese authorities promised the IOC and international community concrete improvements in human rights in order to win the 2008 Olympics for Beijing. But they simply changed their tone after being awarded the games. Some people hope that “the Olympic Games will help to improve the human right situation in China. I agree with RSF that all the signs are that the repression will get worse before it gets better. Knowing how old fashioned the IOC has behaved in the past with Internet rights, I cannot imagine them doing much to change this deplorable situation.