Wednesday, July 31, 2013

China's State Run Media Publishes English Language Reports on Book/Internet Censorship (Again)

In the last week the Global Times (published by the Communist Party mouthpiece The People's Daily), published several English language articles discussing free speech with mainland Chinese characteristics:

Hackers, Bloggers and Professors Team Up to Tap into Blocked Microblog Content 
From the list of blocked keywords provided on the website, it is also clear when some words become sensitive and when such scrutiny is lifted.
For instance, the name of Bo Xilai, former Party chief of Chongqing who was recently prosecuted on corruption charges, was banned from searches until July 25, the day the news of his prosecution was announced.
. . . .
China's regulation on Internet information lists nine types of banned content, most of which concerns national security, state unity, rumors, pornography and violence. But in practice it isn't always clear where the line is and in the event of a breaking incident, certain words or phrases that are otherwise normal might become sensitive for a period of time.
Data provided by Greatfire has been used by other researchers to get to grips with Internet restrictions. In May, for instance, two professors from Northwestern University in the US used its data to study how the GFW affects users' online behavior. 
Update August 8, 2013 - The aforementioned report was deleted from the Global Times web site within a few days of its posting. See here -

Hengqin New Area Aims to Skirt Firewall 
Local authorities of the Hengqin New Area in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province confirmed Tuesday that they are planning to bypass the Great Firewall by opening special access to the Internet.
"We're cooperating with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and telecommunication providers including China Telecom to work on a plan. The local government will hand over the plan to related government bodies for approval," Liu, a press officer from the Hengqin government, told the Global Times, without giving details of their proposed timeline.
The Zhuhai Daily reported Tuesday that the New Area is also trying to gain support from the State Internet Information Office that would facilitate the establishment of this special access.
If passed, Hengqin will be the first region on the Chinese mainland where local residents can skirt the firewall and get access to blocked websites including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
New Freedoms for Banned Books
The so-called banned books are mainly works by Chinese authors that have been outlawed by the authorities, such as Yang Jisheng's Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962, in which the author spent 20 years investigating the reasons that led to mass starvation, including the death of his own father. They can also be books that had some politically sensitive content removed from mainland versions, such as historian Zhang Yihe's The Memories Haven't Vanished, in which she tells the stories of prominent intellectuals who suffered from brutal attacks during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76.)
Many mainlanders who buy political books at the Book Fair told the Global Times that they did not feel comfortable talking about it as they were afraid their comments might land them in hot water.
Is there anything new about China's state-run media publishing English language reports about book and Internet censorship?

In August 2009, the China Daily published a report entitled "Lawyer Arrested on Tax Evasion Charges" in which it noted:
Information about Xu has been blocked on the internet yesterday as the search for "Xu Zhiyong (Chinese characters)"on and Baidu, two major search engines, generated: "Your search results don't conform to related laws and policy."
From the Global Times article "What Writers Can and Can't Write" in January 2012:
Faced with sometimes ambiguous regulations that are often blamed for stifling artistic creativity, some writers give up, some put up a fight, but most seem to cooperate.
The manuscript of a book usually needs to be reviewed at least three times by the publishing house. Depending on the subject matter the General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP), various propaganda departments and other government agencies may also be involved in the approval process. Television and movie productions require the approval of the State Administration for Radio, Film and Television (SARFT).
"There is also self-censoring, and writers and playwrights are very sensitive to this," said Shi Hang, a playwright who has written dozens of TV series, mostly historical dramas.
From the Global Times article "Cloud Transcends Firewall" in June 2011:
The construction of China's first international cloud computing hub is progressing apace in Chongqing, a local official told the Global Times Wednesday, adding that the zone will be free from any Internet content oversight.
"We have completed the outline of the International Cloud Computing Special Zone in the city's Liangjiang New Area. The first phase of construction is set to be completed in three years," said an official surnamed Li with the Chongqing Economic and Information Technology Commission. "There have been several foreign enterprises signing contracts to do business in the zone."
The special zone, covering about 10 square kilometers, is the only area in China that is directly connected to the outside Internet through optical fibers without being filtered, according to the Southern Weekend.
Foreign companies can run offshore data services in the special zone after obtaining a license for telecommunications and data management businesses. Some can even keep a 100 percent shareholding of businesses in the zone, the newspaper reported.
. . . .
"A special optical cable directly connected to the outside Internet is not necessary to run a cloud zone, but its installation in Chongqing could be attributed to demands of foreign companies as some websites are blocked in China," Cao said.
Its also worth noting that the People's Daily itself has published articles about the Great Firewall in Chinese. For example, there is this article from April 2007 entitled "Baidu's Japan Web Site Being Blocked by the Great Firewall Suspected to be  Connected with Pornographic Content." (百度日本站被GFW屏蔽 疑与色情内容有关)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Most Major Chinese Web Sites Completely Censor Search Results for "Huang Huahua Reported"

Huang Huahua (黄华华) was governor of Guangdong province from 2003 - 2011.

These screenshots show that, while a Baidu search for "Huang Huahua" in late July, 2013 returned apparently uncensored results, a search for "Huang Huahua reported" (黄华华 举报) returned no results, just a censorship notice.

Similarly, Baidu was also completely censoring search results for "Huang Huahua High Level Corruption" (黄华华 高层贪腐).

These screenshots show that all of China's major search engines also returned no results for "Huang Huahua reported" (黄华华 举报), just a censorship notice.
These screenshots show that Baidu had banned users from establishing PostBar (贴吧) forums on Huang Huahua, and a search for "Huang Huahua reported" (黄华华 举报) on Sina Weibo returned no results, just a censorship notice.

This screenshot shows search results for "Huang Huahua reported" (黄华华 举报).

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Baidu Temporarily Relaxes Censorship of "GlaxoSmithKline"

On July 26, 2013, the Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily published a report from China's official news agency Xinhua entitled "Police Reveal Details of GSK China's Alleged Violations." Some excerpts:
The Chinese police on Thursday revealed details of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) China's alleged bribery and tax-related violations that pushed up drug prices and disrupted market order. 
After the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) announced on July 11 that some employees from GSK China were being investigated for suspected bribery and tax-related violations, more individuals involved in the case, including salespeople and doctors, are now under investigation. 
Xinhua has learned from police officers handling the case that they are suspected of offering bribes to doctors, asking them to prescribe more drugs in order to grow sales volume, and in the meantime pushing up drug prices.
These screenshots show that at some time between July 22 and July 27 Baidu relaxed its censorship for searches of "GlaxoSmithKline" (葛兰素史克), and started returning news results for that term. Baidu was still censoring search results, however, restricting results to a white list of about a dozen web sites controlled by the central government and the Communist Party.

These screenshots show that as of July 28, Baidu was once again censoring searches for "GlaxoSmithKline" and was not returning any news results for that term.

These screenshots show that as of July 27 most other search engines and Weibos were continuing to completely censor searches for "GlaxoSmithKline."

The exception was Tencent's Soso search engine, which has not appeared to censor search results for "GlaxoSmithKline."

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Baidu Censors "Xinhua Reporter Exposes Minister Accepted Bribes and Drank Human Milk"

On July 22, 2013, China-based web portal published an article entitled "Hong Kong Media: Xinhua Reporter Exposes Minister Accepted Bribes and Drank Human Milk." (港媒:新华社记者曝正部级官员接受贿赂喝人奶) An excerpt:
According to a report in the Ta Kung Pao, some officials are vicious beyond measure, and a Xinhua correspondent has published a post stating that several years ago a minister-level official participated in expensive parties thrown by wealthy businessmen at a time when he was still a deputy-minister. One of the dishes was the breast milk of a beautiful woman, and every guest was accompanied by a young, beautiful, naked girl. 
This screenshot shows that a search for the title of that article in quotes on Baidu on July 27 returned no results, just a censorship notice.

These screenshots show why - shortly after the article was published, Baidu began restricting search results for the title of that article to a white list of about a dozen web site controlled by the central government and the Communist Party.
Baidu's censorship coincided with the publication of a denial of the story by Xinhua on China-based web portal Sohu's "Rumor" web site. According to that story:
We have learned that the correspondent Zhou Fang was merely an evening English editor, who usually did not take part in news reporting, and had absolutely no means of knowing what supposedly goes on behind the scenes, and his real name report is utter nonsense. The aforementioned [Xinhua insider] went on to disclose that every year Zhou Fang "exposes" something online, but everything he has exposed was proven to be false. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sina Weibo Censors Searches About Jack Ma's Comments About June 4, 1989

On July 20, 2013, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post published the following announcement in English and Chinese on its web site:
On July 13th, 2013, reporter Liu Yi submitted an article for an interview with Jack Ma which was published by After a period of time and without authorisation, she accessed the system and replaced the editor-approved article with an altered version in which Mr Ma's reference made in relation to June 4th was removed. Given this alteration's departure from our interview recording, the original article was reinstated immediately following discovery of discrepancy. Liu Yi has since been suspended from work for making unauthorised alterations to company property. A full disciplinary enquiry was instigated. Liu Yi however chose to resign on July 19th, 2013, while the investigation is still ongoing. Notwithstanding, the South China Morning Post continues to stand by the original article. SCMP will continue with our in-house inquiry as with all cases relating to professional discipline. 
2013年7月13日, 南华早报中文网刊登记者劉怡采写的与马云的专访。刊登一段时间后,劉怡未经授权擅自进入系统,对已由编辑同意刊发的最后定稿进行删改。删改后的版本將受访者马云对六四的言论刪除。这与采访的录音原始记录不相符。我们发现后,马上恢复文章的原貌。同时,我们暂停该名员工的工作,并展开全面内部调查。就在调查期间,劉怡却于7月19日提出辞职。但是南华早报对该报道的真实性确信不疑。南华早报将继续按公司员工纪律规定,进行调查。
This screenshot was taken on July 22, and shows that a search on Sina Weibo for "South China Morning Post Editorial Department Announcement" (南华早报编辑部声明) returned no results, just a censorship notice.

This screenshot was taken on July 21, and shows that Sina Weibo was censoring searches for "South China Morning Post Liu Yi." (南华早报 刘怡)

These screenshots were taken on July 20, and show that Sina Weibo was censoring searches for "Jack Ma Six Four," (马云 六四) but not searches for "Jack Ma," (马云) or "Six Four." (六四)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sina and Tencent Stop Censoring "Bo Xilai" the Same Day Government Announces His Indictment

On July 25, 2013, the China's official news agency Xinhua published an article entitled "Bo Xilai Indicted for Bribery, Corruption and Power Abuse."

These screenshots show that on July 24, both Sina and Tencent were censoring searches for "Bo Xilai" (薄熙来) on their Weibo products, and that on July 25 both companies stopped censoring searches for that term.

This screenshot shows that on July 25 Baidu was still prohibiting users from establishing a PostBar (貼吧 Tieba) forum about "Bo Xilai."
See also:

Sunday, July 21, 2013

China's Web Sites Censor Searches for Information on Lawyer Xu Zhiyong's Detention

Xu Zhiyong (许志永), a Beijing lawyer described by the state-sponsored China Daily as someone who "has been providing legal help to the country's disadvantaged groups" was detained on July 16, 2013. First, Sina and Tencent began censoring searches for his name on their respective Weibos shortly thereafter.

Then, Baidu deleted its Baidu Encyclopedia (百科 Baike) article on Xu.

Now, these screenshots show that, just days after Xu was detained, Baidu and Youdao began censoring "Xu Zhiyong Criminally Detained" (许志永被刑事拘留 - interestingly, on Baidu it was still possible to retrieve results by putting a space between "Xu Zhiyong" and "Criminally Detained").

Sogou and Qihoo also joined in banning search results for the phrase.
These screenshots show that Sina Weibo was censoring searches for "Number Three Police Station" (第三看守所) and Baidu, Qihoo, and Sogou were censoring searches for "Xu Zhiyong Number Three Police Station." (许志永 第三看守所)
These screenshots show that Sina Weibo was also censoring searches for "Liu Weiguo" (刘卫国), a lawyer who attempted to meet with Xu after Xu's detention, and that a search for "Xu Zhiyong Liu Weiguo" on Baidu News returned no results.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

After Lawyer Xu Zhiyong is Detained His Baidu Encyclopedia Entry Disappears

As noted in a previous post, Xu Zhiyong (许志永), a Beijing lawyer described by the state-sponsored China Daily as someone who "has been providing legal help to the country's disadvantaged groups" was detained on July 16, 2013. Sina and Tencent began censoring searches for his name on their respective Weibos shortly thereafter.

These screenshots show that on July 19, 2013 the top Baidu search result for "Xu Zhiyong" was Baidu's own Baidu Encyclopedia (百科 Baike) entry for Xu. The same search on July 20 shows that the top result for Xu is now Xu's Wikipedia entry and Baidu's Encyclopedia entry is not on the first page of results.

The reason is that the Baidu Encyclopedia entry, originally available here - - appears to be because it has been deleted. The screenshot below shows what users clicking on that URL saw on July 20 - a notice saying "Apologies, we are unable to display the article you wanted to access!" (对不起,您所要查看的词条无法显示!)
This screenshot shows that a search for the entry's URL on Baidu Web Search on July 20 returns a notice saying "Unable to find that URL." (没有找到该URL。)

This screenshot shows that a search for "Xu Zhiyong" on Baidu's Baike on July 20 returns a notice saying "Baidu Encyclopedia Does Not Yet Have an Article on 'Xu Zhiyong'." (百度百科尚未收录词条"许志永"。)

This screenshot shows Xu's Baidu Encyclopedia entry as it appeared on July 11, 2013.

This screenshot shows what Xu's entry as it appeared back in 2009, around the time the government detained Xu and shut down his Open Constitution Initiative (公盟) organization.

As of July 20, 2013, Soso's Encyclopedia entry for Xu remained available here -

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Xu Zhiyong Detained (Again), China's Web Sites Censor It (Again)

According to a document posted on Tencent Weibo (pictured below) on July 16, 2013, the Beijing Public Security Bureau issued a "detention notice" for Xu Zhiyong (许志永) on charges of "disturbing public order." (扰乱公共秩序)

This screenshot was taken on July 17 and shows that Baidu had banned users from establishing PostBar (贴吧 Tieba) forums for "Xu Zhiyong."
 These screenshots show that on July 18 both Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo began censoring searches for "Xu Zhiyong."

This is neither the first time that Xu has been detained nor the first time that Chinese web sites have censored information about him. On August 19, 2009, the China Daily published a report entitled "Lawyer Arrested on Tax Evasion Charges." Some excerpts:
Xu Zhiyong, co-founder of Gongmeng, a legal assistance group, was taken from his home by security officers at dawn on July 29, according to a statement from Gongmeng. 
Zhou Ze, Xu's lawyer, told China Daily yesterday that Beijing prosecutors had approved a police application to arrest Xu for tax evasion. 
Beijing municipal authorities ordered the closure of Gongmeng last month for not being "registered properly". Beijing tax authorities also sent a formal notice to the center last month, imposing a fine of 1.4 million yuan ($207,000) for evading taxes on funds received from overseas.
. . . .
In 2005, Xu registered the Gongmeng group. With other scholars and lawyers, Xu has been providing legal help to the country's disadvantaged groups, including some of the parents of children who fell ill after drinking contaminated milk powder last year. 
Information about Xu has been blocked on the internet yesterday as the search for "Xu Zhiyong (Chinese characters)"on and Baidu, two major search engines, generated: "Your search results don't conform to related laws and policy".
The left-hand screenshots show searches for "Xu Zhiyong" on Baidu in late July 2009 and mid-August 2009. In July, Baidu said it could find over 100,000 results for Xu's name. By mid-August, shortly after Xu's detention, Baidu was returning no results, only a notice saying "Search results may not comply with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, and have not been displayed." (搜索结果可能不符合相关法律法规和政策,未予显示。).

At the time of his detention Xu was a lecturer at the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications. He was one of the founders of the Open Constitution Initiative ("Gong Meng" 公盟). In 2003, he had been elected to the Haidian District People's Congress as an independent. In a July 2009 interview with China's Esquire Magazine (published the same month he was detained) Xu said:
Xu as he appeared in the Chinese edition of
Esquire Magazine the same month he was
detained in 2009.
I hope that our country can be a free and happy one. No person need betray their conscience. Everyone needs only rely on their talent and character to find their position in life. A simple and happy society, where the goodness of humanity may find its apex, and its malice finds its nadir, where honesty, trust, kindness, and helping one another becomes commonplace, where there is not so much anger and anxiety, and there is a pure smile on every face.
Below is a timeline of events surrounding Xu's detention for tax evasion in 2009:

May 2009, Gong Meng published a report that challenged China's official explanation that the deadly riots that broke out across Tibet in March 2008, were inspired by "overseas forces" — namely the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile. Instead, the report blamed the riots on the central government's policies toward Tibet, claiming it has backed incompetent local officials, created an economy that provides few options for young people, and deprived Tibetans access to equal justice under law.

July 14, the Gong Meng Consulting Company Limited received a "Notice of Tax Administrative Sanctions" simultaneously from the national and local tax bureaus, saying that administrative sanctions would be imposed before July 24, with the local tax bureau imposing a 304,975.65 yuan fine, and the national tax authority demanding 187,424.67 yuan in back taxes and imposing a 937,124.35 yuan fine, for a combined total of 1,420,000 yuan. The accusation of tax evasion included a $100,000 grant that Yale University gave the center for legal programs.

July 16, Gong Meng submitted an "Application for Hearing" to the local tax authority and the Beijing branch of the national tax authority.

July 17, the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau announced that Gong Meng had been designated an illegal organization, was banned, and the office's equipment would be confiscated. The No. 2 Tax Investigation Office of the Beijing local tax bureau issued a notice that Gong Meng had evaded business, municipal, and stamp duty taxes, and ordered it to pay 60,995.13 yuan. The Tax Investigation Office of the Beijing branch of the National Tax Bureau issued a decision that Gong Meng evaded business taxes, and ordered it to pay 187,424.87 yuan.

July 24, Gong Meng's legal representative Xu Zhiyong, and agents Li Xiongbing (黎雄兵) and Peng Jian (彭剑) attended a hearing at the offices of Beijing's local tax bureau. Attorney Teng Biao's (滕彪) was prohibited from attending the hearing.

July 28, Gong Meng invited several legal experts to attend a meeting at Beijing University Law School to discuss and analyze the incident from an academic perspective. Administrative law experts Professor Jiang Mingan, Professor Liu Shen, and Professor Zhang Shuyi issued the "Legal Opinion on the 'Banning of Gong Meng Incident."

July 29, Xu and a Gong Meng co-worker, Zhuang Lu (庄璐), were taken away from their homes by police. The next day the police prevented Xu from attending a hearing with the National Tax Bureau.

July 31, Gong Meng issued a "Statement Regarding Dr. Xu Zhiyong's Detention by the Police," calling for "relevant agencies to abide by the law, and on the basis of building a fair, just, and harmonious society, embrace open civil society organizations, show discretion in handling this case, and immediately restore the personal liberty of Dr. Xu Zhiyong and Zhuang Lu," and reaffirmed "Gong Meng's unwavering commitment to principles of reason, rule of law, constructivism, and non-violence, and to continue focus on and promote China's public welfare, social progress, and rule of law." That afternoon, Gong Meng's website was shut down.

August 3, Gong Meng issued the "Notice Regarding Gong Meng's Intent to Accept Public Donations For Use in Complying With the Tax Authorities' Administrative Sanctions Decisions." The Notice said that Gong Meng would be accepting donations to pay the back taxes and penalties imposed by the tax authorities. Two days later, the police froze Gong Meng's bank account.

August 17, Xu's family applied for bail for Xu. Xu and Zhuang were granted bail and released on August 23, one day after the new American ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, arrived in Beijing.

August 30, Gong Meng published the "Report on the Status of Donations," stating that as of August 25, they had received 1,701,281.01 yuan, and that Gong Meng had already complied with the administrative decisions and administrative sanctions imposed by the national and local tax authorities.

Courts in the Chaoyang, Xicheng, and Haidian districts of Beijing all refused to hear Gong Meng's complaints regarding its being banned by the civil affairs authorities, having its business license revoked by the commercial authorities, and being sanctioned by tax authorities.

Screenshots of Gong Meng's web site as it appeared
before it was shut down.
August 21, 2010, the Beijing Public Security Bureau closed its investigation against Gong Meng on the grounds that it had paid its fines. It returned Gong Meng's account books and lifted the bail on Xu Zhiyong and Zhuang Lu.