Once a Colonial Subject
Quiz: So who Shouted "Long Live Democracy!" in public in China?

News: China Set More Controls on Internet (+ related stories)

Zhong Guo: Middle Kingdom

China sets new rules on Internet news
Sun 25th Septemeber 2005

BEIJING (Reuters) - China set new regulations on Internet news content on Sunday, widening a campaign of controls it has imposed on other Web sites, such as discussion groups.

"The state bans the spreading of any news with content that is against national security and public interest," the official Xinhua news agency said in announcing the new rules, which took effect immediately.

The news agency did not detail the rules, but said Internet news sites must "be directed toward serving the people and socialism and insist on correct guidance of public opinion for maintaining national and public interests."

Established news media needed permission to run a news Web site, it said. New operators had to register themselves with government information offices. more

China steps up Web controls but investors untroubled
Fri Sep 23, 3:55 PM ET
By Lindsay BeckFri Sep 23, 3:55 PM ET

China's cyber police have intensified controls over the country's 100 million Internet users in the past few months but that hasn't stopped Western Web firms from pushing ever farther into the booming market.

Rather than using their clout to help push the boundaries of free speech and information in the one-party state, critics say companies like Google, Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news) and Microsoft Corp. are at best turning a blind eye to the machinations of the cyber police.

"It's too early to say that just by doing business in China and developing the Internet in China they will foster democracy and human rights," said Julien Pain, of media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

"It doesn't work that way."

Indeed, the group says there is evidence the opposite is happening, with the major Web players accused in the past of pre-empting the government by routinely blocking discussions on sensitive subjects from the 1989 democracy movement to the spiritual group Falun Gong.

China has blocked access to the Web site Google News to force surfers to use the Chinese version of the site, which removes politically sensitive reports.

Microsoft's "MSN Spaces" came under fire for censoring phrases like "human rights" and "Taiwan independence" from the subject lines of its free online journals.

And most recently, Yahoo was accused of supplying data to Chinese authorities that was used as evidence against Shi Tao, a journalist sentenced to 10 years in prison for sending an internal Communist Party message by e-mail abroad.

Yahoo says it was only abiding by local laws. But rights groups say the company, which agreed last month to pay $1 billion for a 40 percent stake in Chinese Web auctioneer Alibaba.com, is complicit in a system bent on curtailing, not expanding, Internet freedoms. More

No word of cyber-dissident who has been on hunger strike for three weeks

Reporters Without Borders  / Internet Freedom desk
23 September 2005

Voicing concern about the lack of any word since 8 September from imprisoned cyber-dissident Zhang Lin, who has been on hunger strike for the past three weeks, Reporters Without Borders today urged Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to intercede to get his conviction reviewed. Zhang is serving a five-year sentence for endangering national security.

"We call on the Chinese authorities to move at once to release this famous cyber-dissident for humanitarian reasons," the press freedom organisation said.

Zhang, who has been detained since 29 January, began the hunger strike on 1 September to protest against the mistreatment and long hours of forced labour to which he was being subjected in Bengbu prison, in Anhui province.

He told his lawyer, Mo Shaoping, he intended to continue the hunger strike "for 100 days." He was taken to hospital after one week, but was returned to prison when he refused the prescribed treatment.

No one has had any contact with him since 8 September, when his lawyer was able to speak to him briefly. His wife, Fang Cao, has been trying to visit him in order to persuade him to call off the hunger strike. But the prison authorities told her on 21 September there was no possibility of communicating with him because "all detainees must be cut off from the exterior."

The mother of two children and short of money since his arrest, Fang continues to write him a letter every two days, but has not received any answer.

Zhang was convicted by a Bengbu court on 29 July for giving an interview to a foreign radio station and for posting articles and essays (including the words of a punk song) on the Internet. The court found that their content was "contrary to the bases of the constitution" and "endangered national security."

Media Watchdog Tells Bloggers How to Avoid Censors
By Timothy Heritage Thu Sep 22, 5:21 PM ET

PARIS (Reuters) - A Paris-based media watchdog released a handbook on Thursday to help cyber-dissidents and bloggers avoid political censorship in countries as far apart as China,
Iran, Vietnam and Cuba.

The guide, published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) with the backing of the French government, identifies bloggers as the "new heralds of free expression" and offers advice on how to set up a blog and run it anonymously.

"Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure," wrote Julien Pain, head of RSF's Internet Freedom Desk.

"Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest." More

And then you have completely different kind of news selling a different story about the same thing in NY Times.. :)

Internet Sites Are Making China More Accessible
September 25, 2005
By  YILU ZHAO

Comments

Rob

I might be a bit late on this but ESWN had a remarkably meticulous analysis of the Shi Tao case. http://www.zonaeuropa.com/20050908_2.htm
I just wondered what weight his argument carries with you regarding the responsibilities of carriers with regard to operating within a legal jurisdiction.

Glutterbug

I read a little bit of it. Honest? I don't really know what he is talking about. Something about a girl with her head in a box. That's so pretty...

Shi Tao has nothing to do with violent crime and that the main crux of the argument Reporters Without Borders was representing was the management in Yahoo CN shares and is managed by yahoo! HK which is not under China's jurisdiction. They were targeting the HK management to be responsible for their actions and not the Chinese one.

I know that this is a small and complicated legal thing that needed to be read carefully to understand, but that was one of the main reasons the story was able to be exposed the way it was.

China puts dissidents in jail. We know that. American companies helping China. We didn't know that.
Hong Kong companies helping China, when they are not legally bound. Even worse.

Mainly, Yahoo is no different from any other ISP they would give information to the police without a warrant because it's a simple thing to do. But the reason they are raked over hot coals is that they abetted in putting a journalist in jail for ten years.

And it's not yahoo! any other company given the situation should be raked over hot coals. Companies do not have to "break the law" to be raked over hot coals over moral dilemmas. There is a historical precedent of this throughout investigative journalism. Bad working conditions, environmental pollution, helping governments do things they shouldn't.

Government are often raked over for violating human rights even if it's LAW in that said country.

Stone a woman to death for accused adultary can make headlines. To hell with the fact it's an ancient tradition and by law of not only that group but the state as well.

And with the news and the backlash proves.

People in the western world do not appreciate their companies helping repressive governments put people in jail for things they do not think should be in jail in the first place.

Otherwise all the "Law blah blah" and the "Company blah blah" is just semantics of trying to be clever and having something to say/

I really don't have time to get into protracted debates with anyone about issues, which is why I just report them on this blog. In order to really "make" sense and not leave a reductive or emotional argument without true thought it takes time and willingness to debate. It also takes effort and knowledge.

Which is why i don't alway explain what I have to say. But reporters without borders, the major news organizations, and myself are not so blinded that we don't know what is behind an story on an idea before it gets shot around the front pages of the world. If any of those things I read (Briefly didn't finish it all) was valid. The story would not have gone so far.

Anyway, this is coming from a guy who have fallen down market enough to start translating articles about murder cases, from tabloids, and put pictures of kids whose mother killed their father on his blog. What can I say? It doesn't surprise me he uses an analogy like girl with head in box to talk about putting a purveyor of truth in jail for a decade.


Yan

Glutterbug

You know Rob.

It pissed me off so much. I wrote a whole piece about it.

http://glutter.typepad.com/glutter/2005/09/cyberdissident_.html

Thanks for that. I think I needed to say what I had to say.

yan

Rob

I was just writing a comeback on your reply. I shall have to go and read this first.

Rob

You definitely got it off your chest. Here is what I wrote below.

--

...if you can keep your head while all about are losing theirs :)

Actually the major flaw in his analysis is to compare the case of a journalist with that of a kidnapping, and to compound it further, to set up this extreme case as being suitably similar as to unequivocally settle the argument. Anyone familiar with the role of a free press in a democracy would see through this comparison. However, China is not a democracy and the majority of its citizens do not understand how the various institutions in a democracy balance each other out, which if you think about it possibly represents the major obstacle to democratic transition in China.

I think that if you view the post charitably the point that he is trying to get across is that to someone who lives within the system, who considers the government to be their government right or wrong, the criticism against Yahoo sounds anti Chinese rather than being for press freedom or the rights of journalists. He is saying that if you look at the case from another angle and consider that not every action of the authorities in China is designed to suppress someone, then the case is less controversial than the knee jerk western outlook would suppose.

Regarding American companies helping the Chinese government, I think there is a precedent here, and I even think that a company standing up to the government would be the exception rather than the norm. Cisco and Nortel and a variety of other companies help the Chinese government to block and censor the Internet in China. That amounts to far more than persecuting a journalist, that's actively supporting a regime. Microsoft censors the content it hosts etc. The point is we expect companies funded by shareholders to be accountable to their shareholders and do what it can within the law to deliver a profit. The distinction between Yahoo CN and Yahoo HK (and here I tread carefully) I imagine does not mean much as the parent organisation is the same and is the one ultimately responsible plus the fact that they are different parts of the same country.

The silver lining I guess is that each step that the PRC government takes to control the actions of Internet users effectively reveals the countermeasures required to continue to use the Internet for free expression. I'm sure the use of an internet cafe and a clean email address would have kept Shi Tao out of trouble.

In any case I agree, we could debate the merits for ever without really achieving anything. I think anyone visiting your site would get where you are coming from and how strongly you feel about it. Ultimately the point that is at the root of this is that many of the people who are the subject of the issue that concerns you the most may in fact not agree with you.

I most humbly submit :)

Glutterbug

ESNW is a Hong Kong person who lives in Hong Kong.

He's not some "automated brain washed Chinese citizen." you made him out to be.

If he was in China he would be jail for commenting on it because it would simply not exist.

As for the precedents. In fact in a political activism way I see it the opposite. as someone who works on this issue and hopes that this issue will be better exposed. the yahoo! story is the lead into the Cisco MSN one. I agree Cisco is far more at fault and thus need to be far more accountable for what they are doing. This really is an issue of getting the story out and getting the story to grow.

Personally I have been working on this story on and off for about a year and a half, and I can see it slowly building momentum. So hopefully one day we make the cover of times, or newsweek and all the major papers again.

It's really about letting people know. Now how much of that will make a difference, is again that constant fight for public opinion and asking people to act.

But I really want to go to sleep.

Reading your comment was dangerous! I couldn't help but answer to it. (Of course it has something to do with my personal involvement in the story).

But you know. I am not sure who the "Peopple who are the subhect of the issue that concernts you the most may in fact not agree with you."

I assume you mean my fellow Chinese citizens.

That's not the case. I have the majority view. In fact how far the story went is a testement I am actually on the side of public opinion on this. ESNW is just one guy with a blog. I have a blog. In your polling at this point it's 50/50 but notice he said "Someone had to be a bad guy?" it means he's in the minority.

But I still had to say what I had to say because I felt it was important for it to be in the record of public discorse.

I need to sleep as my spelling and typing is degrading!

yan

Glutterbug

Rob.

I read your answer to this, and I also changed some of the things or at least the more convuluted bits into better english of my points, coz I think what you said about the HK/CN government is right.

but hey. Give RSF and the reporters a break coz they needed an "angle" as well...

:)

Yan

Rob

Yan
Regarding ESWN (why isn't it EWNS) I did originally think he was from HK but sort of got the impression that he was posting from Beijing at one stage because of some reference in the post. I think he is doing a good job by trying to give non Chinese readers insight into the mass media culture in China HK & Taiwan. He does also take an angle which is trying to bring in many of the sentiments that a mainlander would have, and a few times he has raised an issue in a way that I have found in the past Chinese arguing with me have used. 'Why can't the Chinese government demand the emailer's details? America has this system, why can't China?' You know the kind of chip on the shoulder knee jerk reaction. This why I raised the article with you.

Which leads me on to my next point which is the relative strengths of liberalism and nationalism in China. I have found a variety of combinations of these sentiments when talking to Chinese, and I am mostly including well educated people in this. Most Chinese I've met will express support for democracy and say that China will achieve this status one day. On the other hand, they will tell you that the CCP are the people to lead China and will ensure prosperity and stability for China. Psychologists have a term Cognitive Dissonance Reduction. I think there is a lot of it around in China. What I am getting to is that in the sentence "people who are the subject of the issue that concerns you" I was really trying to say that I think mainland Chinese would resent external pressure on their government and would not agree with what you are doing. Just a personal opinion based on observation.

Regarding the Yahoo/Cisco issue I do think you are on to a winner. The reason is to do with branding. Cisco is a corporate to corporate brand and is thus less exposed to a media based campaign. Microsoft is too big a target, too diversified to hit hard. Yahoo, however, is a nice cuddly single medium consumer brand and is thus most exposed to a grass roots, activist led campaign, and they probably know it.

Regarding the HK/CN government I don't feel as though I fully understand the situation there which is why I visit your site. The situation in China and between China and Taiwan is closer to my heart.

I too need to go and sleep now.

BTW. I like the new colour, however red is the colour of change. The CCP took it for that reason and I think you should keep stealing it back.

Glutterbug

Cognitive Dissonance Reduction... I don't really know what that is although I may have learnt it in the past. Something to do with pretending things that are opposed to each other are not.

I don't actually agree that CCP is not the people to bring China to a democratic state.

They are the ONLY people who should bring China to a democratic state because otherwise it would mean civil war and a very big mess.

I don't really know why you assume I am saying anything different to my Chinese counterparts?

Because for westerners the idea the CCP will become democratic is dissosiative. (don't make me spell hard words)

CCP can embrace free market they can embrace freedoms as well. In the 70s who was to think the country of the cultural revolution could be the same people who will open up the free market as it has? Unimaginable.

Maybe it's unimaginable for many to think the CCP will open up into a more open and democratic China. I think it will. In fact a democratic system serves the non-power yielding fractions of the CCP much better than the current system of an Oligachy of a small number of the party.

As for external pressures. No, China will not fold to external pressures. Once my friend came to HK and asked me why they couldn't do what they did to South Africa as sanctions with China and my friend and I laughed because shutting off China won't make any changes because Chinese people are more than happy to shut off from the rest of the world when facing foreign enemies.

So... I think you think or at least assume certain things I believe in which I don't or what I am "trying to do" which I am not.

What am I trying to do here?

Keep the memory of a democratic China alive for the sake of the students and the sake of my granddad.

Make the Internet Story an issue because I think American companies should at least be accountable to what they do.

Write down my personal record of the HK democratic movement.

Log human rights violations in China because people should know this stuff happens.

Hang out and put lots of really rubbishy thoughts on things of no consequence and none of my friends want to listen to like "rockstar: inxs"

And probably present a view of a liberal chinese person in English when the views of liberal chinese persons are always so subsumed by the loud mouth traditionalist which I am going to call "Knee jerks" for the purpose of this conversation.

Chinese people have as a long traditions of liberal thoughts as well. We just don't get a lot of airtime and the knee jerks like to throw out "You're not Chinese" to hopefully take away our legitamacy.

Really the only counter part is the American right who will scream at people like Kerry as being "not american" because they know what a globe looks like.

Now, please read the above and tell me if those are the things you meant as "What you're doing."

yan

Glutterbug

Oh and here is this 20 questions thing that I answered about blogs stuff and Chinese Democracy that I think you might find interesting...

http://www.andresgentry.com/thoughts/2005/03/profile_10_glut.html

Tell me what you think.

yan

Rob

That's a very good introduction and I guess should be preparatory reading for anyone participating seriously on this blog.

Henry Miller, hmm, I found that in my father's library when I was about 14. I thought it was just smut. I probably would consequently have shown it to my girlfriend if I had had one at the time ;)

Rob

Hi Yan
We're into a heavy discussion. Lots of stuff flying around and I had to write an essay length answer, apologies for it being so long winded.

Basically to deal with the issue of the route to democracy. I don't believe anyone can reliably predict the course of history. Sometimes events conspire to cause disaster, such as the lead up to various major wars, sometimes they lead to peaceful outcomes or transitions such as happened in South Africa or Eastern Europe. Very often the actions of a few key people have a huge bearing on these outcomes. More on that later.

I don't want to get into a contest as to who can best gauge the will of the Chinese people in the PRC. I have had conversations on these same topics with a variety of people, including a former member of the CPPCC, students, a senior commercial official in the city administration in Shenzhen, businessmen and academics. From talking to these various individuals I have drawn the conclusion that there is a class of Chinese who are driven by a deep sense of history, of the modern world and China's place within it. They see China regaining its rightful place as a world leading power. Maybe a modern version of the 'Middle Kingdom' idea. They don’t want anything to upset this vision. To them, if democracy is an aid to this end then it should be harnessed. If democracy is a destabilising force then it should be avoided or postponed. Now you could argue about the origins of this kind of vision, that the CCP has encouraged it, but I still feel that there is a constituency in China, occupying a space analogous to a middle class, who hold these beliefs. They are not the only constituency. Below is an impoverished working class, both rural and urbanised who are beginning to feel exploited. Above is a political class who have lost the ideological battle and who are preparing to fight the political battle to retain power.

Speaking to the question as to whether the CCP is the best agency to introduce democracy in some large scale form, this is a point I would agree on. There is already apparently a limited democratic franchise in rural villages, which is really interesting as this is a base from which to expand democracy. There are a number of possible scenarios for the development of democracy. It can be introduced via overthrow of the political class through a mass uprising, the traditional Chinese method if you will. This is the Low Road. Or it can come about through the appointment of an enlightened leader who brings about a peaceful change. This will more likely happen in order to prevent the previous scenario. Chinese remember what happened to the Soviet Union under Gorbachev and the collapse that followed and are loath to follow this route. This is the High Road. Both are Big Bang approaches with a high amount of risk. The low risk approach is a gradual shift towards greater freedom, controlled as far as possible by the CCP.

The problem with the low risk approach is that it unleashes forces that quickly become unmanageable. Take two examples, the village elections and press freedom. Village elections were allowed in order to satisfy the twin ends of releasing the pressure of dissatisfaction in the countryside and allowing a limited experiment in democracy. What has happened is that villagers have used the opportunity and even the rights implicit in freedom to choose to seize even greater power over their affairs. Likewise journalists given more freedom to report issues relevant to people’s lives have acted to expose the actions of corrupt officials and to report events previously kept quiet to an extent beyond that envisaged by the state. In both cases, relaxing of regulations to solve one set of problems unleashes another, more problematic set. The reaction of the authorities is to try to put the genie back in the bottle, but this is impossible because they would go back to the previous set of problems that they were trying to alleviate in the first place. China abounds with these paradoxes, which is why I made the reference to Cognitive Dissonance. The Internet situation is a classic example. The Chinese government wants the benefits that are derived from the Internet. They opened up to the Internet, saw the results that threatened their hold on power, and acted to try to put the genie back. Their actions will be partly successful but ultimately the citizens will have learned the power of networked communication and the ability to build consensus outside of the sphere of influence of the government.

Coming back to the likening to South Africa which I mentioned earlier, the comparison really is about resistance to change. We had a situation where we felt threatened. We had clear evidence of a communist led plot to seize the southernmost part of Africa for strategic reasons, since confirmed by documents from the Soviet archives. We could not envisage change and thus resisted change. We re-elected the same government for 40 years on the basis of providing security from the black threat. We developed a protective, closed mindset against all the external criticism and resisted, sometimes violently, internal criticism. I sometimes get pangs of nostalgia when I remember that time, snatches of memories .

Usually the rest of the world takes credit for having ‘forced’ South Africa into yielding but the truth of the matter is that the end of the Soviet threat played the biggest part in allowing us to move beyond the trap we had fallen into. I am trying to summarise this a bit. We regard the situation that South Africa has reached now as nothing short of a miracle. Admittedly we were extremely lucky to have a Mandela, although he does not deserve sole credit for what was achieved, but is emblematic of what happened in our country. The essence of my story is that all through the sanctions, the lack of access to so many things, the sense of being a pariah nation, nothing shook us from our belief of who we were, why we were doing what we were, why we chose our leaders, nothing. It made us more resistant to change, more resentful of interference, a thicker skinned, more arrogant people.

There is also a problem with external threat because I believe that most Chinese believe that there is an external threat to China in the form of America and that the bulk of the criticism is funded, directed, inspired or otherwise originates from America or its sympathisers. In fact I think they often regard the Chinese pro-democracy movement and the American government as being hand in glove.

Change has to happen from within, and we should support China in this. The point I was really driving at in my original post was that the case of Shi Tao demonstrates the fact that your story about Yahoo was all about the key actors being Yahoo as bad company and the Chinese Government as oppressor. Turn the story around and it could be about Shi Tao as brave Chinese journalist and Yahoo stopping him from doing his job. From what I’ve read there are a lot of brave unsung journalists in China trying to get word out about what is happening inside that country. The story might not have had the same punch, but you would still have had Yahoo firmly in the spotlight and you would emphasise the role of someone who, like you, is only trying to get the word out.

Rob

I’ve just realised that the above doesn’t answer your question about ‘what you are doing’. Basically what I mean by this is setting yourself up in apparent opposition to the Chinese Government. This would group you in the eyes of many Chinese with those seeking to destabilise the government or weaken the Chinese people in their endeavour to achieve modernity. I hope some of what I have written above illustrates why I have said that. I think if you set yourself in support for many of the things that ordinary Chinese are doing to work towards freedom, you will get a much warmer response from mainland Chinese people

Glutterbug

> you will get a much warmer response from mainland Chinese people

Who said I don't?

Glutterbug

Sorry I was not in the best mood at that moment because I had to deal with some really ridiculous behavior on a online chat of some sort. I will read it and see what I have to say, but I don't like the tone and attitude with your last comment.

But I should consider what you wrote first.

You're right.

yan

Rob

Let's park it here. I'm sorry if I didn't strike the right tone. That's my take on the subject and while I am opinionated, I don't form opinions lightly. I am just trying to offer an alternative point of view and do it with a positive end in mind.

I think that you have made it clear what you are about and stand for and the approach that you are taking. Go for it, for what its worth I'll support you.

I also think that it is the limitations of the medium that are to blame. All you get is the words printed in black and white, without the tone of voice, facial expression and other signifiers that we use to guide a normal conversation, based on the response, while we are talking.

baswizzle

Rob, you need to be a better writer, then. You can get tone anywhere. No face involved.

Rob

Ja, like you?

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