Today’s New York Times has a very interesting article about some of the internet dissidents in China who are discovering, creating, and publicizing ways to get around China’s Great Firewall. What’s particularly interesting is the way the article documents how people who were otherwise non-political were driven to activism in the face of repression.
In almost every instance, the resistance has been fired by the surprise and indignation when people bumped up against a system that they had only vaguely suspected existed. “I had had an impression that some kind of mechanism controls the Internet in China, but I had no idea about the Great Firewall,” said Pan Liang, a writer of children’s literature and a Web site operator who first learned the extent of the controls after a friend’s blog was blocked. “I was really annoyed at first,” Mr. Pan said. “Then the 17th Party Congress came, and I received an order that my Web site, which is about children’s literature, had to close its message board. It made me even angrier.”
Like others, Mr. Pan used his Web page to post solutions for overcoming the restrictions to some banned sites…
The article also makes clear that the levels of internet censorship are rising as the Beijing Olympics approach. Access to information is tightening, more Chinese internet police are being deployed, and the PRC government is cracking down on dissidents. The Olympics has had the opposite effect from what was promised by the IOC and the Beijing government: there is more censorship and less freedom as the government increasingly fears that the world will see that China is anything but a “harmonious society.”
What is sad, though, is that the Olympics could have been a moment for China’s communist government to genuinely liberalize, to open up their country to the democratizing forces of free speech, free press, and access to a free and open internet. Instead, they have promised that while arresting more and more dissidents, writers, and critics. The Chinese government has shown more of themselves in their illiberal actions than giving the world a candid view into their country ever could have.
The NYT also has a blistering editorial criticizing China’s march away from freedom in advance of the Olympics.