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Government Policies Ruling the Chinese Internet Community

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Censorship in China  |  Mtholyoke.edu [caption id="attachment_5159" align="alignleft" width="300"]An Internet cafe in China (mytholyoke-edu) An Internet cafe in China (mytholyoke-edu)[/caption]

“By linking to the Internet, we do not mean the absolute freedom of information.”-Wu Jichuan, Posts & Telecommunications Minister

Regulating the “Flow of trash”

As early as three years after the Internet had taken China by storm, it was apparent that the China was concerned with the free-flow of information. On February 1, 1996 the first Internet focused law was enacted, “Interim Regulations on International Interconnection of Computer Networks in the People’s Republic of China.” This law forbade the use of the Internet with the intention to harm national security, disclose state secrets, damage national interests, endanger social stability, or produce, distribute, or consume pornographic information. From this alone, it was obvious that China’s Internet would come with strings attached. The future of China’s free flowing Internet was cast with a dim light.

As stated by Tai Zixue “Information in the Chinese authoritarian tradition is not only something to be desired, but also something to be controlled.” Jiang Zemin, the former Chinese President emphasized the need to regulate and control the flow of “harmful materials” such as pornography and politically controversial topics. As China opened its door to the global cyber world, the Chinese political leaders began to display concern for the information that would be accesible to Internet users across the nation. This motivated the Chinese leaders to establish numerous restriction laws that would prevent the access of controversial information.

Great Fire Wall of China

The Great Fire Wall of China or rather known as the Golden Shield Project was established in 1998. This $800 million dollar project was said to aid the Chinese Internet Police in regulating the many Internet surfers in China. The system was based around the principle “the simplest way to gain control over unwanted content is to completely block it.” It was the Chinese government’s attempt to physically filter out the offensive content that could enter through the boundaries of China’s Internet. The Great Firewall helped funnel all of the internet traffic into the foundational Chinese interconnective networks allowing the government to succesfully control the information environment. This systems always China’s Internet authorities to block controversial websites at a mass level. There is only one way to overcome the Great Fire Wall: climb it! Just kidding.. the use of proxy servers allows an internet user to bypass the firewall. Ironically, the Great Fire Wall has received praise amongst major Western Corporations: Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Nortel Systems, etc.

Encouraging Self-Censorship

Are the Chinese Internet Authorities really able to watch the activities of all 253 million Internet surfers in China?

They would like Chinese Internet users to think so. The threat of the ‘ubiquitious’ Chinese Internet Police causes many companies and private businesses to self-censor their employees use of the Internet. This is an example of the chilling effect. In other words, they are scared to the point of enforcing Internet censorship on themselves! The Chinese Internet Authorities only carefully watch the activity of suspected surfers that they believe are posting or researching about a controversial event.

Cases of Internet censorship

The Chinese Internet Authorities have found several political events to be very controversial. As a result, they banned all access to information on these events. The following are examples of the some of the most majorly disputed topics that are banned in China.

Falun GongThe Falun Gong is a spiritual cultivated practice that is guided by the characteristics of the universe: truthfulness, benevolence. and forbearance. This spiritual discipline was founded in 1992 by Li Hongshi, and has reached out to many Chinese people all across the nation. As a result, The growing number of Falun Gong practitioners has sent an alarming message to the Communist Party. The controversy began in 1999  banned the practice of Falun Gong Naturally, the Chinese government would also ban any information regarding the Falun Gong on the Internet.

International Tibet Independence Movement: Tibet’s request for independence from China has raised much debate in the International community. Various protests and outspoken activists groups have made it clear that this issue cannot be ignored.The Chinese regime has tried its best to regulate the outbreak of protests. As a result they have banned any sites with content pertaining to Tibet’s independence movement.

 Tiananmen Square Incident: Also known as the June 4th incident of 1989. The series of demonstrations were initially in mourning of the death of Hu Yaobang, the rightist government official in the Chinese political hierarchy. The demonstrations sparked violent arrests by Chinese police officials hoping to supress the crowds. The Chinese government quickly forbade news coverage and foreign press from the country. Although it has been 20 years since the Tiananmen Square incident, sites with related information to the event are still banned in China.

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