It is only logical that an article about online censorship would be censored. But last week’s censorship of such an article by the Shanghai-based business weekly Diyi Caijing Zhoukan (第一财经周刊- cbnweek.com) has again highlighted the extremes to which the propaganda agencies go to ensure that any discussion of the way the Communist Party censors the Internet is nipped in the bud.
The case is all the more important after the allegations in the U.S. diplomatic cables leaked at the weekend that the Communist Party’s Politburo was directly responsible for the cyber-attacks on Google’s computer systems and other targets, a charge that is extremely damaging for China’s international image.
The article describes the activities behind the scenes at the Beijing-based Bureau of Website Administrators (北京市的网管办), one of the entities responsible for online censorship. It was quickly withdrawn from Diyi Caijing Zhoukan’s website, cbnweek.com, after the authorities banned its reproduction in print or online on 24 November 2010.
The following administrative directive was sent to websites: “From midnight on 24 November, it is strictly forbidden to repost content from the Diyi Caijing Zhoukan website. It is also forbidden to post any link to this site.” The date the ban was issued is not mentioned.
The article, which can still be read at http://www.govecn.org/2010/11/blog-post_9205.html, provides a detailed description of how the Bureau of Website Administrators, a government agency, controls online news and information and closes websites in order to stifle debate about social and political issues. It also highlights the precarious situation of Chinese news websites, which are the victims of the government’s strict rules.
The article mentions the case of “Wanju Wang” (玩聚网), a website inspired by Digg.com, a U.S. social networking website that enables people to quickly recommend news stories to other Internet users. After several arbitrary suspensions by the authorities, Wanju Wang closed down. It also cites the case of "Shiguang Wang" (时光网), a movies website that had to erase much of its archives.
Reporters Without Borders meanwhile hopes that the Chinese government is going to respond publicly to the allegations in the diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks about its involvement in the cyber-attacks on Google. If the claims of the “Chinese source” cited in one cable are confirmed, it is a very disturbing precedent as regards the methods used to spy on journalists and human rights activists who follow China.
According to the New York Times, the cables revealed that “the Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government.”
Arrests, releases and house arrest
Liu Di (刘荻), a young human rights activist who has been under house arrest in Beijing since 8 October, appeared in court on 24 November. Also known by the pen-name of “The Stainless Steel Mouse” (不锈钢老鼠), Liu said the case was prompted by her involvement in translating a book about citizen action entitled “Non-violence, an even stronger force” (《 非暴力，一种更为强大的力量》) even though the book, self-published by Liu and her colleagues, is not on sale to the public. The authorities ordered the deletion of certain passages about China. Liu does not know the outcome of the judicial proceedings.
Liu is one of the hundred or so people who have been under house arrest or strict police surveillance since the 8 October announcement that the jailed intellectual Liu Xiaobo (刘哓波) had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. “I see that the government is very determined this time,” she said.
More information about Liu Di:
The Internet police in Shanghai are very quick to pounce on any subject that might be a source of embarrassment for the authorities. The writer Xia Shang was detained for several hours for suggesting in a microblog entry that people should buy flowers for the 58 victims of a fire that recently gutted a Shanghai tower block.
Qin Yongmin (秦永敏), one of the founders of the banned China Democracy Party and editor of several dissident publications, was released on 29 November on completing a 12-year jail sentence. The police escorted him to his home in Wuhan and ordered him not to talk to the press. He told the Associated Press that the police had confiscated all of his prison writings.
Reporters Without Borders calls on the authorities to stop all forms of surveillance.
Guo Xianliang (郭贤良), a writer who was arrested in the southern city of Guangzhou for distributing leaflets referring to Liu Xiaobo, was released on 26 November. His friends and family reported that he is back at home in Kunming. More information: http://en.rsf.org/burma-liu-xiaobo-only-nobel-peace-18-11-2010,38838.html