Category Archives: Great Firewall

“Where there’s freedom, there’s no need for firewalls”

Another great translated quote on Shanghaiist, this time from Chinese actor and director Sun Haiying:

“We have been attempting to block a whole load of Western things — Western values, hostile Western forces, Western hegemony, and the Western cultural invasion. Our firewall is the world’s most advanced. Strangely though, we’ve never heard of the West trying to block Oriental values, hostile Oriental forces, and the Oriental cultural invasion. Our CCTV4 has landed in the United States, and even The Founding of a Party is being shown on screens there. This illustrates a truth: Where there’s freedom, there’s no need for firewalls.”

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“China’s censorship can never defeat the internet”

Ai Weiwei writing in The Guardian:

Chairman Mao used to say: “As communists we gain control with the power of the gun and maintain control with the power of the pen.” You can see propaganda and the control of ideology as an authoritarian society’s most important task. Before the internet, all people could do was watch TV or read the People’s Daily. They would carefully read between the lines to see what had happened. Now it is very different. The papers try to talk about things, but even before they appear, everyone has talked about it on the internet.

But since we got the net and could write blogs – and now microblogs – people have started to share ideas, and a new sense of freedom has arisen. Of course, it varies from silly posts about what you’ve had for breakfast to serious discussions of the news but, either way, people are learning how to exercise their own rights. It is a unique, treasured moment. People have started to feel the breeze. The internet is a wild land with its own games, languages and gestures through which we are starting to share common feelings.

But the government cannot give up control. It blocks major internet platforms – such as Twitter and Facebook – because it is afraid of free discussion. And it deletes information. The government computer has one button: delete.

But censorship by itself doesn’t work. It is, as Mao said, about the pen and the gun. At midnight they can come into your room and take you away. They can put a black hood on you, take you to a secret place and interrogate you, trying to stop what you’re doing. They threaten people, your family, saying: “Your children won’t find jobs.”

China may seem quite successful in its controls, but it has only raised the water level. It’s like building a dam: it thinks there is more water so it will build it higher. But every drop of water is still in there. It doesn’t understand how to let the pressure out. It builds up a way to maintain control and push the problem to the next generation.

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“Twitter Wins New Fans Over Censorship”

Amidst all the complaints, Twitter seems to have made a few fans (via WSJ):

“It is impossible to have boundless freedom, even on the Internet and even in countries that make freedom their main selling point,” read an editorial published Monday on the English-language website of the Global Times. “The announcement of Twitter might have shown that it has already realized the fact and made a choice between being an idealistic political tool as many hope and following pragmatic commercial rules as a company.”

Beijing-based investor and Chinese Internet watcher Bill Bishop told China Real Time on Friday that he doubted Twitter was making a play for China, saying the company would have to be “incredibly naïve” to think it could compete in a market already saturated with microblogging services that had earned the trust of the government. The main question, Mr. Bishop said, was whether Chinese state media would seize on the announcement as evidence of the need for Internet censorship.

He didn’t have to wait long for an answer.

In its editorial, Global Times, a nationalist-leaning tabloid published by Communist Party flagship newspaper People’s Daily, described selective censorship as “normal practice” and “a necessary step in the evolution of Twitter.” It’s important for Twitter “to respect the cultures and ideas of different countries so as to blend into local environments harmoniously,” the paper added.

Are they just trying to troll Twitter? Getting Global Times behind you is just giving more ammo to the backlash movement.

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‘Further Web Controls Feared”

RFA has the latest on the government’s reaction to the Wenzhou train crash, and their subsequent deliberations on further muzzling the internet. Obviously the target this time will be Weibo and other twitter-like sites:

China’s propaganda chief has spoken publicly about the problems of controlling the activities of the country’s 500 million netizens, fueling fears that further attempts at control are on the way.

Propaganda department chief Liu Yunshan made the comments on Wednesday during a round-table media discussion held with participants from China, Japan, and South Korea, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

“The central propaganda department won’t be able to completely control [the actions] of 500 million netizens,” Liu was quoted as saying in response to widespread criticism of his department.

Independent commentator Ye Du said that controls were already in place on Sina Weibo, but that a series of major events, including the recent Wenzhou rail disaster, had flooded the authorities’ capacity to edit, delete, and filter sensitive content.

“I think we can predict that the next wave [of controls] will target the microblogging sites,” Ye said. “There will be a new set of much tighter measures.”

“All of the microblog service providers will come under increased pressure from departments in charge of managing the Internet to step up self-censorship efforts,” he said.

“Controls on sensitive authors and topics will definitely be increased.”

Sichuan-based Internet expert Pu Fei, who works for activist Huang Qi’s 64Tianwang website, said the authorities would likely target sensitive and high-profile bloggers like Woeser, improve their ability to locate banned content, and continue to delete sensitive content when directed by government departments.

“Online rumors are saying that the major Internet companies have boosted the number of online censors to more than 10,000,” Pu said. “But we don’t have any evidence for this right now.”

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“China Steps Up Web Monitoring, Driving Many Wi-Fi Users Away”

The New York Times is reporting that Beijing is trying to wipe out the relatively anonymous use of the internet in cafe and restaurant wi-fi zones:

New regulations that require bars, restaurants, hotels and bookstores to install costly Web monitoring software are prompting many businesses to cut Internet access and sending a chill through the capital’s game-playing, Web-grazing literati who have come to expect free Wi-Fi with their lattes and green tea.
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The software, which costs businesses about $3,100, provides public security officials the identities of those logging on to the wireless service of a restaurant, cafe or private school and monitors their Web activity. Those who ignore the regulation and provide unfettered access face a $2,300 fine and the possible revocation of their business license.

“From the point of view of the common people, this policy is unfair,” said Wang Bo, the owner of L’Infusion, a cafe that features crepes, waffles and the companionship of several dozing cats. “It’s just an effort to control the flow of information.”

One bookstore owner said she had already disconnected the shop’s free Wi-Fi, and not for monetary reasons. “I refuse to be part of an Orwellian surveillance system that forces my customers to disclose their identity to a government that wants to monitor how they use the Internet,” said the woman, who feared that disclosing her name or that of her shop would bring unwanted attention from the authorities.

During a survey of more than a dozen businesses on Monday, none said they were prepared to purchase the software, which is designed to handle 100 users at one time. For many, it was a matter of economics. “It might make sense for places like Starbucks or McDonald’s, but we only have a couple of users at a time,” said Ray Heng, the owner of Sand Pebbles Lounge, a Mexican restaurant.

Like several other business owners, he said he hoped official fervor for new regulations would soon die down. In fact, he said, he had no immediate plans to stop offering his customers free Wi-Fi. “We have no problem allowing our customers to surf the Internet; it’s the government that does,” he said. “If they want us to install the software, they should foot the bill.”

We’ll see if this software goes the way of Green Dam, or if the government is sufficiently spooked by other internet-based revolutions to actually carry this one out. If the relatively educated, literate classes don’t already feel aggreived by the state of the Chinese internet, that might do the trick.

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The Great Firewall of… Germany?!

Shanghaiist has a hilarious quote from Xiamen Vice Mayor Zang Jiebin, who recently claimed that Germany is actually the one with the internet control problem. It’s something I’ve seen a few Chinese politicians do lately: pick a problem, pick a random country, and accuse them of actually being far worse than China in that regard. It isn’t like the Chinese media is allowed to call you out on that, and online discussions will disappear if they start getting noticed. Here’s Mr. Zang on the German internet:

“The commonfolk in Germany have a very hard time accessing the Internet. Not only do they have to jump through hoops to get approval, it’s also very expensive. In the West, there is a great focus on ideological mangement, and they go way further than we do in their control of the Internet. Therefore, we can say that our country is very civilised, very democratic, and everybody should feel very fortunate.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Zang, it turns out the foreign media IS allowed to call you out on that. Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, has been pursuing him to try to get an explanation- apparently to no avail:

To find out how Zang came to arrive at those conclusions, Deutsche Welle has attempted to get in touch with the Xiamen municipal government, Zang’s secretary, and the propaganda department.

When contacted, Zang’s secretary, a man surnamed Luo, said that the vice mayor was not at work and would not be able to answer those questions. When pressed further, Luo said that the propaganda department (we’re assuming he meant the municipal one) was in charge of entertaining those questions. When contacted though, the propaganda office said those questions were not under their purview, and neither were they clear about the situation.

Incidentally, searches for “臧杰斌” on Sina Weibo now yield the error message, “According to relevant laws and regulations, the search results may not be shown.” That’s right. Zang has officially become a sensitive term. So much for freedom on the Chinese internet.

To be sure, it’s hard to find anywhere where the internet is truly free without some fine print- but that isn’t what he said. If I see anything about anyone ever catching up with Zang, it’ll be here.

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“Cisco’s surveillance tools: China vs. China”

Peking Duck writes about the deal Cisco recently concluded with the Chongqing city government:

A few days ago I read with interest a detailed article in the WSJ on the project to install a massive surveillance system under the singularly Orwellian name “Peaceful Chongqing.” According to the government, “Peaceful Chongqing” will be set up for benign purposes such as large-scale spying on its citizens traffic control and maintaining a harmonious society. Naturally, much of the technology will be provided by Cisco, without whose expertise the Great Firewall wouldn’t be what it is today. HP, it seems, will also be helping out.

Then I read today that this story has taken a humorous twist. It’s not just US human rights organizations that are complaining about the involvement of US companies in this dubious project, but Chinese nationalists who maintain if China wants to spy on its own people it should use its own technology to do so.

Can I just chime in on this one here? Hey Cisco and HP- I know you guys are corporations, so you have no qualms about doing any kind of awful inhuman thing in your quest for another dollar or two- but could you please try to be just a little bit less loathsome? Tone it down a notch or two? Providing expertise and technology to a system which will be used to extend the fist of the Chinese government as it smashes Chinese citizens, to death in some cases… some shameful stuff right there.

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