The Great Firewall of China

By Bryan • blog, china, internet, nanjing • 20 Nov 2004

My frustration with internet in China continues…although speeds today were not to bad.

The seedy, illicit air of this cafe belies the fact that these venues are under official scrutiny. All customers must register with identity documents, ensuring that the country’s Internet police force — alleged to be 30,000-strong — can track them down easily. The government has also ensured that cafes install local filters to reinforce the nationwide censorship system dubbed “the Great Firewall of China.”

Since June, it has been compulsory for cafes to install a video camera and software that detects any attempt to browse a banned site, then automatically informs government supervisors.

If you try to access the BBC, for instance, you’re told that the server is not available. Type in the name of Louisa Lim, its Beijing correspondent, and the search engine will return results for her stories — but will refuse to let you have access.

Only last week, the government’s China Internet Network Information Center reported that inspectors had visited 1.8 million cafes in a six-month crackdown, closing down 18,000 temporarily and 1,600 for good. Beijing says it is concerned about young people accessing pornographic or violent sites. Human rights groups say that it is trying to silence critics.

Logging on at home is not necessarily safer. Individuals are being arrested and detained for lengthy periods, often without trial, for disseminating information judged to be seditious via the Internet.

It’s more of an annoyance in my case. I’m not really to worried about the fuzz knockin’ on my door an arresting me.

What really was interesting about the article though was this:

Not that this would have interested the other users, who were mostly deep in multi-player games.

“The west thinks that people here wake up every morning and think, `Oh, I wish I had democracy,'” says Tuinstra, whose Connecting China project aims to encourage Chinese users to discuss their lives with the global online community.

For one of my classes we were discussing the British Parlimentary System and as a comparison, I wanted my students to tell me about the Chinese government. “We don’t like to talk about politics” was the most popular answer. They are quite young, and didn’t think their interest levels in politics would be too high anyway. However, my director (who is a master’s student) sort of gave me the low down on politics and the Chinese people.

“Only politicians worry about politics, not common people. I’m a teacher, not a politician”.

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3 Responses

  1. Sue

    How do you know they won’t moniter your stuff? I know I sound like a paranoid mom but………. you are somewhat free with your opinions:) You may end up with no internet instead of slow internet.

  2. Chinese Internet Police

    It’s too late now, Mrs. Crosby. We have a file on Bryan the size of a Yangtze River Dolphin.

  3. Bryan

    “Apparently, academics are regularly monitored online”

    heh heh heh…if they only knew what my co-workers did online everday…then again, they might already know!

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