First Blog Requiring True User Identity Formally Opens in China

By Shi Shan, Radio Free Asia
February 3, 2007 12:00 am Last Updated: February 3, 2007 12:00 am

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has recently adopted a new system for Internet users requiring individuals to use their true identity when registering on-line. The new system was designed to allow increased CCP surveillance of Internet use in China.

A Chinese blog named “United Blog Community” was formally initiated on January 29 in Beijing. According to the CCP's official media outlet, Xinhua News Agency, “United Blog Community” does not use a free-and-open registration system. Subscribers to the blog register through invitation, recommendation and/or self-recommendation. After a strict qualification review on profession and identity, the user can then become an official blogger. On the homepage of the blog, it says that this blogging community believes that by using a true identity registration system, it will help to promote a law-abiding, self-disciplining, clear and trustworthy model for Internet growth and expression.

Recently, the CCP has been promoting an Internet managing system that requires the user's true identity when submitting registration for Internet use. The new system was designed to allow increased CCP surveillance of the Internet.

The former chief-editor for the U.S. based Chinese language electronic magazine, Big Reference , Mr Li Hong-kuan doesn't think that using an individual's true identity or pseudonym will have any effect on Internet surveillance by the CCP.

“In terms of blog articles, whether or not the author's true identity is posted does not make a difference. It mainly makes it easy for the authority to track down people's identity and is able to arrest people.”

According to recent statistics, there are over 20 million bloggers on the Internet in China. Visits to Chinese blogging sites exceed 100 million each day. There are more bloggers and blog readers in China than in any other country in the world today.

U.S.-based Chinese writer Zhang Yi suggests that Chinese writers have always had a tradition of not signing their real names to their compositions. This tradition is not necessarily based on fear of revenge from the CCP. However, the CCP hopes to use the new system requiring the use of the author's true identity to threaten and harass Chinese blogging activists. Whether or not this system will work to effectively dissuade dissidents from publishing their viewpoints is yet to be seen.

“Using an alias offers Chinese bloggers a feeling of security. When one publishes a blog on line under an alias, the authors tend to be more forthright with criticisms against the CCP.

If when a blog is first initiated the writer uses their true name, that writer might feel that they have foolishly exposed themselves to potential harassment by the CCP. If the writer is not immediately harassed by the CCP they may continue to write under their real name. Once such a direct line of communication is open and the true name is used repeatedly, then the opinion is real, just like a vote. The courage on the part of the blogger to reveal their true identity will strike fear in the heart of the CCP.”

Zhang believes that on the Internet, an alias may bring feelings of security to the user, thereby broadening this medium as a forum for the free exchange of ideas. But Zhang also points out that he himself believes that people who publish online articles or comments will eventually all use their true identities. This will be beneficial to the Chinese people in terms of facing and then eventually abandoning their fear of the CCP.

Zhang said he strongly supports a system that requires registration on the Internet using a persons true identity. Ten to fifteen years ago if the requirement for true identities had been in place there would not have been many people willing to telling the truth on the Internet. Such individuals would have been immediately arrested and imprisoned by the CCP. Today, the CCP's control over the Internet has been significantly weakened. Speaking the truth regarding the CCP on the Internet and/or at a public place no longer results in automatic arrest. Zhang believes that if more people speak the truth openly and use their true identities while doing so, it will be highly beneficial in overcoming Chinese people's deepest fears of the CCP.

Zhang also said that because of the large number of Internet users in China today, the CCP can no longer completely block opinions that are not supportive. Using one's true identity to express one's opinions could help to build a true people's democracy. Furthermore, open and honest public opinion could generate pressure on the CCP toward improvement.