Struggle for Internet Freedom in China More Desperate, Says Report
According to the 2007 Annual Report on China’s Internet Network, the struggle for free online access by everyday Chinese Internet users is getting more desperate as the Chinese Communist regime has stepped up on its control on the Internet.
The Report which was more than 5000 words in length, was titled “Another year of fierce competition for space on the Internet between the Chinese Communist Regime and the everyday Chinese Internet users.” This Report was also published on the Chinese Human Rights Defenders website on July 10, 2008 under the subtitle of “The 2007 Annual Report on China's Internet Network’s monitoring and anti-monitoring activities.” This Report listed major events of China’s Internet Network in 2007 and exposed how the Chinese Communist regime controlled cyberspace information in China by using different methods to filter the flow of information.
It reported that in Beijing, the municipal government hired 180 cyberspace “vigilantes” to monitor users’ activities. In 2007, numerous websites had been shut down and some editors were even punished. To counteract these infringements on their rights to freedom of speech and information, users had come up with ways to resist the monitoring.
Mr. Li Hongkuan, former editor-in-chief of the electronic version of “Big News” thought the report had substantial information for it to be credible enough to be used as a reference on cyberspace control in China. He thought the report was good as it presented many examples and some detailed information on how the Chinese Communist regime controlled China’s Internet Network through its monitoring departments. The report also made a point of highlighting the dismissal of some of the websites’ editors-in-chief. Mr Li thought the information was quite truthful.
The Report revealed that the Beijing’s Internet Network monitoring system consisted of three levels of warning: Level 1 requested monitored website to take action within 5 minutes; Level 2 requested monitored website to take action within 10 minutes; Level 3 requested monitored website to delete contents within 30 minutes.
In addition, the monitoring departments from the Beijing municipal government required websites to mandatorily publish some contents according to its guidelines. There were also strict restrictions on reprinting articles from other Chinese media groups. For example, articles from the South China Newspaper group and the First Finance and Economy Daily had been categorized as the “non-conforming sources” and websites could not reprint these articles at will.
Chris Wu, editor-in-chief of “China Affairs,” a Chinese website in the United States, concluded that the Chinese Communist regime is trying to take full control of the Internet network in the entire country.
Mr. Wu also said, “There had emerged a large number of public affairs in 2007, which were no doubt due to the power of the Internet network. Naturally, the Chinese Communist regime is very concerned about the ever growing influence of the Internet on its population. The regime fears that it would eventually lose its hold on guiding the country’s media and its right of speech if it doesn’t step up on the restrictions. At certain times, it exerts its control by influencing organizations, the human resources and the information sources in order to serve its political agenda.”
The Report also pointed out that even day-to-day business websites must undertake the propaganda tasks for the regime. The three major tasks of the China Internet Network monitoring departments in 2007 were 1) disseminating the propaganda for the 17th Chinese Communist National Conference, 2) the 2008 Olympic Games and 3) the “build-up of a harmonious society. The monitoring departments also acted to recommend “front page” articles for major websites. When website editors unwittingly added some other contents onto these recommended front page articles, some of them were been dismissed.
According to the Report, up to 10,000 websites were shut down in 2007. This statistic didn’t include the many forums and blog sites that had met the same fate. It also reported that despite the crackdown, Chinese Internet users would not be deterred from voicing their opinions and expressing their dissatisfactions over the Chinese Communist regime.
Some controversial sites listed for 2007 were ones publishing information about the under-aged slavery at the cruel Shanxi brick kiln, the South China Tiger’s hoax in Shanaxi province, the construction of a paraxylene plant in Xiamen and the “stand-off” for 2 years between a family in Chongqing with a developer over the demolition of the family’s home. Beijing’s monitoring departments were unable to effectively exercise any control over the popularity and the hysteria generated by these websites. Within 10 days in the month of June, three Level 1 warnings were issued to every website that implicated the Communist regime in a negative light with the Shanxi brick kiln slavery. Mr. Wu said that the enormous number of Internet users with their intelligent approach in dealing with the regime’s tactics had greatly changed the environment for public opinions in the Chinese society.
Mr. Wu then went on to comment that there are a variety of tactful ways to criticize the Chinese Communist regime on the Internet. “One can insult the regime indirectly using an analogy, or by adopting the traditional Chinese text format which runs vertically through a page rather than the current version which runs horizontally. Another way is to praise the CCP on the surface while criticizing it in essence. The Communist regime would deny the discontent of its people by just ignoring them and brushing them under the carpet. Chinese civilians are by no means fooled or tricked by the Communist regime’s behavior. There are nearly 220 million Internet users today in China and this number will reach 300 million or 400 million in the next few years. How then are the monitoring forces going to deal with this insurgence of users?
The Report also highlighted how users would use every means and avenues to compete for space just so that they could express their views and opinions. Actions such as taking strong efforts to explore and expose the truth of events, taking service providers to court and requesting public hearings, have clearly demonstrated the dedicated efforts of today’s Chinese Internet users to protect their rights and interests.