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)