Apparently, Internet freedom is guaranteed…

…and by the Chinese government, no less ! Could the Chinese government have changed its mind about the Internet ? In a White Paper published by the Chinese State Council Information Office, entitled ‘The Internet in China’, the Great Central Government does praise the Internet calling it ‘the crystallization of human wisdom’, ‘the greatest invention of the 20th century’ and ‘an important indicator of advanced productivity’.

However, what really caught our attention is the following : ‘Chinese citizens fully enjoy freedom of speech on the Internet’. Funny how they forget to mention the freedom only applies to those whose Internet speech falls in line with the government's way of thinking because what follows in the Paper is a list of reasons why Chinese people can not get access to all of the wisdom. The list is so broad and vague, it could easily be applied to nearly any speech Beijing find undesirable.

‘Subverting state power…propagating superstitious ideas…spreading rumors…and other contents forbidden by laws and administrative regulations’. So steer clear of those and you’re free to say what you like. And of course, doing so, the government is merely thinking about what’s best for its people because ‘effectively protecting Internet security is an indispensable requirement for protecting State security and the public interest’. Yes, Chinese citizens fully enjoy freedom of speech on the Internet.

Let’s ask the 30 something known mainland bloggers who are spending some ‘recreational years’ in the State prisons for having effectively use their freedom of speech on the Internet. Would they agree that the ‘within the Chinese territory, the Internet is under the jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty. The Internet sovereignty of China should be respected and protected’ ?

China really just remind them – and us- that it’s business as usual. And though we didn’t expect anything different, China would still like the world to know that it has no plans to allow free access to online content and remind us that whatever we think of it, that’s the plan China is sticking on.

Unfortunately, the 31 pages long paper makes no mention of the Dark Side of the Web some of us know off by heart : the reversed Censorship. So what’s this censorship all about ? For those out there still unaware of the fact that everything you can get access to from within China is any content that the government deems acceptable, you can only imagine what’s left of the ‘most important scientific discovery of the 20th century’.

It starts with the infamous Great Firewall of China, an hi-tech tool that blocks web content based on –unacceptable- key words. Than, you have an army of over 30 000 human censors that go by the names of Jing Jing and Cha Cha –Jingcha (
警察) means police in chinese- and the 50 cents party, a group of ‘commentators’ paid to twist public opinion, otherwise known as the Spin Doctors. Now that’s what the ‘harmonisation of the chinese society is really all about.

So, if ‘safeguarding’ freedom of speech involves, say, blocking youtube, facebook, imdb, twitter, all websites related to either Falun Gong, Free Tibet, the independence of Taiwan, the Tian’anmen massacre, human rights – and many more-… well, I guess that’s just the Chinese government ‘voicing its opinion’ in this ‘vigorous online ideas exchanges’, at it calls it himself.

Did the government censured himself at the approach of the 21st anniversary of the Tian’anmen crackdown ?

But you kid us not, Central Government ! We know that you know that we know. And either way, be aware, censorship makes users more determined to get their messages out. Moreover, the whole world is watching and your decision on this issue will affect the way other countries choose to interact -or not to interact- with you.


However, China doesn't care at all what we – westerners and Chinese citizens- think! If it did, I don't think we'd be clicking through a government-issued white paper justifying censorship. We're at least sure of one thing : Hu Jintao made no mention of any of this on his Facebook account.

Illustration Nicholson

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