Monday, June 30, 2014

State Media Details Detention of 17 Sina Internet Editors in Police Raid

On May 29, 2014, the state sponsored Southern Weekend published an article entitled “Why Are We  Screening You?” (“为什么要屏蔽你?”) Some excerpts:
After working hard all day, Wu Feng, an editor in Sina's online book division, had finally finished all his tasks, and checked the time. It was already 7:30 pm.

The day was April 11, 2014. On a normal day the office would have long since emptied out. But this was not a normal day, and Wu Feng's 16 coworkers were still immersed in their work. Early that morning the editorial department had "received information": a new round of "sweeping out porn and attacking illegal publications" had begun, and every employee had to stay to delete the "little yellow books" on the Book Channel. They had to "hide the bodies and destroy the evidence" before the relevant organs conducted an inspection.

Wu Feng had planned to head home, but at the last minute didn't leave. His colleagues saw him as a "old hand," and he felt he should wait patiently and leave with the other editors. It wouldn't hurt to wait for a bit.

But just ten minutes later he would regret this decision. At 7:40, law enforcement personnel forced their way into the office without warning, and took away 17 editors as the first move in the campaign.

Friends and relatives quickly noticed that the editors had "disappeared," and they called Sina's editorial department, where they all received an identical response: "The 17 editors have gone abroad on business."

Wu Feng's 10 minute delay turned into a one month "trip abroad." His "return home" was relatively quick. At the time of this report, six of the seventeen editors remained in custody.

The riddle of the "disappearance" was only solved on April 16. On that day, Sina Books and Sina Video (Beijing Sina Internet Information Service Company) each received a "Beijing Culture Market Administrative Enforcement Hearing Notice" from the Beijing Culture Market Administrative Enforcement Unit. The Notice stated the "intent to revoke" the "Internet Publishing License" and "Internet Audio-Visual Transmission License" and impose sanctions.

Revocation of these two "Licenses" is one of the most severe attacks a website can suffer.
. . . .
Human screening requires speed. For a screener "speed reading is a basic skill." So-called speed reading means taking no more than 15 seconds to read 1,000 words. Based on this speed, during a sensitive time a screener must work at least 11-12 hours a day. As [one screener] told the Souther Weekend, "No matter how much you like to read novels, reading 3,000,000 words in one day is enough to make you want to puke."
. . . .
Despite all this, after the "great cleansing" began, even the most professional screeners were still faced with a new problem: during this time, what is the standard? Where is the scale?

No one could provide an answer. The only thing to do was for each website to "expand the vocabulary" of the dictionary of banned terms that they had been using.
. . . .
In order comply with the censorship, websites often remain on standby awaiting orders 24 hours a day. Once, the Internet police sent an order to a certain literary website at 7:50 am, informing them they had half an hour to delete all discussion regarding a certain word.

By the time the editors arrived at the office, it was already 9:30. The editors couldn't believe their eyes: by that time the second warning had long since arrived.
The editors scurried to delete what they were supposed to, but they were too late. The website was ordered to shut down for 12 hours. After that, this literary website, which had nothing to do with news, immediately set up a system of round-the-clock rotating editors in order to ensure there was someone on duty 24 hours a day.








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