As the Communist Party of China prepares to inaugurate its 17th Congress on 15 October, Reporters Without Borders today publishes the first report on online censorship in China by someone inside the country. Researched and written by a Chinese technician working for an Internet company, it describes the mechanisms used to censor the Internet and how the Internet Information Administrative Bureau controls the leading news websites.
In partnership with Reporters Without Borders and Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a Chinese Internet expert working in IT industry has produced an exclusive study on the key mechanism of the Chinese official system of online censorship, surveillance and propaganda. The author prefers to remain anonymous. On the eve of the 17th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which opens this week in Beijing, Reporters Without Borders and the Chinese Human Rights Defenders call on the government to allow the Chinese to exercise their rights to freedom of press, expression and information. “This system of censorship is unparalleled anywhere in the world and is an insult to the spirit of online freedom,” the two organisations said. “With less than a year to go before the Beijing Olympics, there is an urgent need for the government to stop blocking thousands of websites, censoring online news and imprisoning Internet activists.” This report shows how the CCP and the government have deployed colossal human and financial resources to obstruct online free expression. Chinese news websites and blogs have been brought under the editorial control of the propaganda apparatus at both the national and local levels. The use of the Internet keeps growing in China. The country now has more than 160 million Internet users and at least 1.3 million websites. But the Internet's promise of free expression and information has been nipped in the bud by the Chinese government's online censorship and surveillance system. “Journey to the Heart of Internet Censorship” explains how this control system functions and identifies its leading actors such the Internet Propaganda Administrative Bureau (an offshoot of the Information Office of the State Council, the executive office of the government), the Bureau of Information and Public Opinion (an offshoot of the party's Publicity Department, the former Propaganda Department) and the Internet Bureau (another Publicity Department offshoot). The report also documents how the Beijing Internet Information Administrative Bureau has in practice asserted its daily editorial control over the leading news websites based in the nation's Capital. It gives many examples of the actual instructions issued by officials in charge of this bureau. The last part of the report gives the results of a series of tests conducted with the mechanism of control through filtering keywords. These tests clearly show that, though there are still many disparities in the levels of censorship, the authorities have successfully coerced the online media into submission to censor themselves heavily on sensitive subjects. This report recommends using proxy servers, exploiting the different levels of censorship between provinces or between levels in the administration and using new Internet technologies (blogs, discussion forums, Internet telephony etc.) Download the full report