February 21, 2006

Bloggers in China

Feb. 21 - The third in a series of articles in the Washington Post as to how the internet works - and hinders - freedom in China: Bloggers Who Pursue Change Confront Fear And Mistrust.

The irony in the final paragraph is outstanding.

Also pertinent is the article Free Software Takes Users Around Filters in the same issue.

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February 20, 2006

Trying to block "harmful" information

Feb. 20 - Another outstanding piece in the Washington Post about attempts by the Chinese government to limit access to the internet. Today's article is about the attempt to control information, including the banning of reference sites like Wikipedia, and the inherent paradox of censorship in todays world:

The party appears at once determined not to be left behind by the global information revolution and fearful of being swept away by it.
Again, it's a long read, but I think you'll find Reference Tool On Web Finds Fans, Censors worth the time.

Besides, can you think of a more appropriate way to celebrate the legacy of George Washington two days before on his birthday?

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February 19, 2006

Locking the barn door after the memo has been posted

Feb. 19 - Wonderful account in today's Washington Post concerning The Click That Broke a Government's Grip (free registration may be required.) The story illustrates the futility of locking the barn door after the horse has bolted - or censoring something after it has already been posted on a computer system, copied and sent through text messaging and email, and posted on bulletin boards.

An attempt to intimidate writers of the newspaper China Youth Daily by docking their pay if their articles upset party officials was leaked by Li Datong, senior editor of the paper, who had posted a letter on the newspaper's computer system which exposed and attacked the move. The capability of the internet to spread information quickly fully earned its nickname "information highway" as attempts to censor the letter could not catch up to its distribution.

It's no secret that China has, with damnable complicity from Google, Yahoo, et al.,

a censorship system that includes a blacklist of foreign sites blocked in China and filters that can stop e-mail and make Web pages inaccessible if they contain certain keywords. Several agencies, most notably the police and propaganda authorities, assign personnel to monitor the Web.

The system is far from airtight. Software can help evade filters and provide access to blacklisted sites, and Internet companies often test the censors' limits in order to attract readers and boost profits. If an item isn't stopped by the filters and hasn't been covered in the Friday meetings, the government can be caught off guard.

That is what happened with Li Datong's letter. Minutes after he posted it, people in the newsroom began copying it and sending it to friends via e-mail and the instant messaging programs used by more than 81 million Chinese.

Attempts to stop the letter were too little too late, and we can credit the slowness of bureaucratic response (yes, even bureaucratic lethargy has an upside!)
It was midafternoon before someone in the party bureaucracy decided Li Datong's letter should be removed from Chinese cyberspace and government officials began calling executives at the major Web sites.

Some said they were contacted by the Beijing Municipal Information Office, others by its national-level counterpart, the State Council Information Office. None reported receiving a formal notice or any legal justification for the decision. As usual, they were just told to delete the offending material.

There are at least 694,000 Web sites in China, according to official statistics, and the party didn't try to contact them all. They called the most popular sites in Beijing first. Hours passed before some smaller bulletin board sites were notified. Forums with national audiences in other cities received calls only at the end of the day.


Even as Li's memo began disappearing from some Web sites, it went up on others the authorities had not contacted. Shortly before 10 p.m., it was posted on the popular Tianya forum. At 11 p.m., it became a featured item on Bokee, China's top blog and portal site.


The next morning, officials continued calling Web sites, but readers started posting the memo on sites that had already removed it. Some Web site managers said they tried to drag their feet or leave copies on less prominent pages. One said the memo was viewed 30,000 times before he took it down.

It's a long read but well worth it.

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June 05, 2005

Hong Kong remembers Tiananmen Square

June 5 - Hopes may be dashed for a day, but the spirit of liberty endures. Thousands Mark Tiananmen Square Anniversary in Hong Kong proving that the ideals and mettle of those students have achieved a place in history that not even the Chinese bureaucrats can erase.

There is also this fine tribute by Tuning Spork.

8:25 - Through seredipitous means, I happened upon a blog that reprinted Nicholas Kristoff's original reporat on the massacre which appeared in the NY Times on June 4, 1989. Time has not dulled the brutality of using tanks against human bodies.

Posted by Debbye at 02:55 AM | Comments (2)

April 21, 2005

Penciled in for August. Check.

Apr. 21 - We are taking time out from our regularly scheduled coverage of Liberal Party Corruption to relay an urgent message to France from the axis of countries that don't suck.

Posted by Debbye at 08:35 PM | Comments (13)

January 02, 2004

Hong Kong Watch

Jan. 2 - The forces of freedom continue to plague the Chinese communist government as thousands of people in Hong Kong turn out to demand direct elections.

Pro-democracy parties want to maintain the momentum of the summer protests and November's local elections, in which Beijing's representatives were heavily defeated. [Local elections last November saw a decisive defeat for pro-Beijing forces of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong when the Democratic Party won 95 out of 120 contested wards for the City Council.]

Their next aim is a convincing victory in September's elections for the legislative council which could theoretically give them a majority and the power to block laws proposed by the Beijing-appointed chief executive and his cabinet.

Mr Tsoi, along with the leading democratic parties in Hong Kong, is demanding a swift move to full elections for the legislative council and the chief executive.

Currently, the chief executive, equivalent to the colonial governor, is chosen by China's government, while the council consists of a mixture of members appointed by the chief executive, elected by the people or elected by "functional" constituencies representing special interest groups such as lawyers.

In September, the number of directly elected councillors will increase from 24 to 30 out of 60, raising the possibility that a landslide could give elected democrats, along with the minority of functional representatives who support them, a blocking majority.

But the real attention is on whether China's ruling Communist Party will allow the next chief executive, due to be chosen in 2007, to be elected.

The current chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, a pro-China businessman, has launched a consultation exercise on the pace of reform. China has already indicated that it seeks "gradual" change.

Gradual change, aka we'll hold direct elections when there is ony party on the ballot perhaps.

Via Instapundit, another link on the story from the Financial Times.

A link I lost when blogger went down last night was on the jailing of Chinese dissidents who use the internet to publish essays. Also jailed was a man who was imprisoned merely for circulating a petition asking to free one of the dissidents. Cuba and China have so much in common. I'll post the link if I find it again.

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