The Chinese Ministry of Public Security recently announced its decision to expand the virtual police system from Shenzhen, where it was first set up earlier this year, to all major cities in China, in order to reinforce the Internet monitoring and censorship.
The Ministry of Public Security has determined to add Internet governance into the overall framework of social security management. According to the official report of Xinhua News Agency, the virtual police system will be trial launched first in eight cities, namely: Chongqing, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Qingdao, Xiamen, Guangzhou, Wuhan, and Chengdu
With the virtual police system, the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau has been monitoring and censoring the Internet. The system monitoring activities include patrolling cyberspace, and openly stopping and punishing illegal on-line activities such as libeling, spreading pornography, and gambling.
The report quoted a Chinese Public Security Bureau official, claiming that the purpose of introducing the virtual police is to increase police presence in cyberspace, implement orders regarding the Internet, and curb harmful information. The official also claimed that the citizens are basically satisfied with the virtual police.
Three Ways CCP Maintains Internet Censorship
Mr. He, Chief Technical Officer of GardenNetworks.com and an Internet expert, pointed out that the implementation of virtual police is one of the three major means in which the Chinese Communist Party (the CCP) maintains Internet censorship.
“The first means is technical blockade,” said Mr. He, “such as filtering information, blocking websites and blocking IP addresses. The second means is administrative control. Take private server owners and netbars for example, the government would force them to promise what to do or not to do with administrative means.”
“The third means is to extend police presence from real world to virtual space. Sometimes you'd find people deleting your posts, or even tracking you. That'd be the government trying to expand its control to on-line spaces, secretly or openly. It has been doing such tings for a long time.”
Mr. He also pointed out that in the past the Chinese Internet police controlled the Internet mainly with technical measures, as a lot of reports have mentioned. But the new policy obviously aims at an Internet governance by local police departments as a part of local public security management.
According to Xinhua News Agency, the Ministry of Public Security plans to set up “police sentry boxes” on China's major websites and forums, and assign police officers to each sentry box for 24-hours patrolling and monitoring.
Internet Censorship will not be Effective
Mr. Li Hongkuan, the chief editor of the already halted Internet magazine, Big News the , believes that the Chinese virtual police is clearly a deviation from the natural development of the Internet, and that it may not be able to monitor the Internet effectively.
Li Hongkuan noted, “The Internet has gone beyond regions. The geographic differentiation has been hardly visible. You can be in the United States or in China, in one city or another. What's the difference? That's the single greatest characteristic of cyberspace. So there is no point in setting up a local cyber sentry box in Shenzhen or other cities.”
Li Hongkuan regards the claim of “increasing police presence” as an attempt to intimidate web users. He says that such a “war against the people” cannot truly and effectively suppress the free speech on the Internet.
Li also reasoned that today Internet monitoring and censoring has been a priority for the CCP's ideology-shaping and media management departments, but considering the intrinsic characteristics of the Internet, such censoring tools as virtual police can hardly work.