Friday, January 30, 2015

2014 Year in Review: Top Quotes About the Great Firewall

I didn't hear clearly which Western websites cannot be accessed in China. I have no experience using these websites, and I don't know if they are blocked or not. But I believe its possible that some websites may not be accessible.
SIIO Director Lu Wei, on October 30, 2014, in response to this question from an Asahi TV reporter: “Facebook and other Western websites are inaccessible in China, why has China shut down these websites?”i

Facebook has long been blocked in China and Instagram has not been available on major android markets in the mainland since July.
Global Times, September 30, 2014, “Instagram Blocked”ii

Net users in the Chinese mainland are experiencing one of the longest and strictest blocks on Google and associated websites, with analysts predicting that it may continue amid tensions between the US and China over cyber security.
Global Times, June 17, 2014, “Google Block Set to Continue”iii

Chinese authorities say they have blocked messaging apps KakaoTalk and Line as part of efforts to fight terrorism, South Korea said on Thursday, the first official explanation of service disruptions in China that began a month ago.
Global Times, August 8, 2014, “Govt Tells S.Korea it Blocked KakaoTalk, Line, Other Apps to Help Fight Terrorism”iv

In recent years, more and more Chinese Net users are forced to seek alternatives to surf the Internet outside of the Great Firewall (GFW), China's Internet infrastructure, by using mirror websites that show blocked Google search results, or by using VPNs.
With the blocks on Google showing no signs of being relaxed, analysts are predicting that the market for VPN services - which range in price but with most of the easily available options selling for around 98 yuan ($15.7) each month - is going to expand significantly.
Global Times, July 13, 2014, “Use of VPNs Skyrockets as Legal Quagmire Remains”v

[S]ince Facebook and YouTube have been blocked by China's firewall, improving their relationship with the Chinese government may not be easy.
China Daily, October 2, 2014, “Facebook, YouTube Refuse to Delete Terror Material”vi

Surprised to find that Google had become accessible around midday Monday, Chinese mainlanders posted the news online, which went viral on social media immediately. A jubilant group of Net users assumed that it was because of some kind of agreement between the Chinese government and Google. However, later that evening, the website was blocked again, with many people speculating that the temporary access resulted from an update to the Great Firewall. . . .
It might not be worth figuring out what really happened.
Global Times, December 16, 2014, “Open Internet Not at Odds with Regulation.”vii

Many Net users in the Chinese mainland discovered Saturday that they could not access their Gmail accounts, even through third-party services.
Global Times, December 30, 2014, “Gmail Completely Inaccessible Inside Chinese Mainland”viii

Since both Google and China haven't given an explanation and meanwhile Gmail is a technically complex system, there may be some puzzling reasons behind the incident.
If the China side indeed blocked Gmail, the decision must have been prompted by newly emerged security reasons. If that is the case, Gmail users need to accept the reality of Gmail being suspended in China. . . . We only need to have faith that China has its own logic in terms of Internet policy and it is made and runs in accordance with the country's fundamental interests.
Global Times, December 30, 2014, “Gmail Glitch Fuels Unnecessary Speculation”ix

Thursday, January 29, 2015

2014 Year in Review: Top Quotes About Freedom of Speech

China protects our citizens' freedom of expression and the normal rights and the interests of media organizations in accordance with law. On the other hand, media outlets need to obey China's laws and regulations. When a car breaks down on the road, perhaps we need to get off the car to see where the problem lies. And when a certain issue is raised as a problem, there must be a reason. In Chinese, we have a saying: The party which has created a problem should be the one to help resolve it [literally, “Let he who tied the bell on the tiger take it off”]. So perhaps we should look into the problem to see where the cause lies.
President Xi Jingping, on November 12, 2014, responding to this question from New York Times reporter Mark Landler: “Several news organizations from the United States have had issues with residency permits in China being denied, including The New York Times. I’m wondering in the spirit of these reciprocal visa arrangements that you’ve agreed to this week with business people and students, isn’t it time to extend that sort of right to foreign correspondents who seek to cover your country?”

Article 1, Clause 1 of the Constitution provides that "The socialist system is the basic system of the People's Republic of China. Sabotage of the socialist system by any organization or individual is prohibited." Now we must further strengthen ruling the Internet in accordance with the law, operating the Internet in accordance with the law, managing the Internet in accordance with the law, going online in accordance with the law, and using the law to regulate behavior in Internet spaces.
SIIO Director Lu Wei, on October 30, 2014, in response to this question from an Asahi TV reporter: “In recent times there has been a clear increase in the degree of website deletions and account closures in China, and there is information indicating that the SIIO will issue administrative measures on mobile applications, does this mean that China wants to restrict online speech? In the future how will you balance Internet regulation and free speech?”i

Because Gao Zhisheng is not well known in Chinese society and his name is blocked on the web, there is very little public information about him.
Global Times, August 8, 2014, “Why Is the West All Hot Over a Released ‘Rights Defense Lawyer’”ii
In the pursuit of so-called "free speech," radical liberals cannot take a swipe China's political cohesion or publicly challenge China's political system. . . . If a few radical liberals want to continue bumping against the line and being antagonistic, then that is their political and personal choice. They must bear the consequences of doing so, and its not something worth grousing about.
Global Times, July 8, 2014, "@Lichengpeng Account Vanishes, It Was Bound to Happen Sooner or Later"iii

It was reported that Pu [Zhiqiang] was detained after he attended an anniversary event to commemorate the June 4th incident. Whether there is a connection has not been officially confirmed, but it is obvious that such an event, which is related to the most sensitive political issue in China, has clearly crossed the red line of law. . . .
[T]hese lawyers themselves have lost the ability of self-introspection. They must regain self-awareness and realize that they are not the commandos or authoritative forces to improve China's rule law.
Global Times, April 8, 2014, “‘Die Hard Faction’ Lawyers Should Not Over-Estimate Their Political Clout.”iv

The fundamental reason for China's success today is its political system is more democratic than Western ones.
Global Times, May 19, 2014, “Chinese Political System Better Represents Broad Essence of Democracy”v

What has driven rich Chinese and the middle-class to migrate to the West? Does a lack of freedom and democracy in China's society make them feel insecure both physically and financially?
Global Times, February 13, 2014, “Wealthy Migration Shouldn’t be Politicized”vi

Occasionally the Global Times will publish articles on on extremely sensitive topics, but will not put them online. The reason for this is that that the online public opinion ecology will intensify their sensitivity, and this acts at cross purposes with our intent to desensitize these issues.
Hu Xijin, editor of the Global Times, February 12, 2014, personal Sina Weibovii

I met an old friend, very wealthy, opened his own medium-sized company. The kind of guy who will spend 20, 30 thousand on a vacation to Hainan, but who has nothing but complaints about the country. I asked him why, and he said the most important reasons were unhappiness, air, and food safety, no right to speak, not to mention the country's politics. He said a man has aspirations, but there is no way to have any impact in this country. Today, everyone in China feels unhappy, and feels they're not getting what they should be getting. This truly is a problem.
Hu Xijin, editor of the Global Times, February 13, 2014, personal Sina Weiboviii

For reasons known to all, Hu [Yaobang] is rarely mentioned in the Chinese media. . . . Avoiding controversy shows not only respect for Hu but also a responsibility for the course of the Party and the country. This is also the case with judging other late Chinese leaders, one of the prerequisites to ensure Chinese society keeps moving forward. . . . Those who oppose the leadership of the Party and who trumpet that China should copy the Western political model had better keep away from Hu's name.
Global Times, April 16, 2014, “Tribute to Hu Veils Value Differences”ix

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2014 Year In Review: China's Internet in Five Easy Screenshots

Date: December 28, 2014
Background: According to Google's transparency report, its products were being disrupted in five countries: China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Turkey.

Date: December 28, 2014
Background: According to Google's transparency report, access to Gmail was completely blocked beginning on December 26, 2014.

Date: December 29, 2014
Background: According to ProPublica: "Every day since Nov. 17, 2014, ProPublica has been testing whether the homepages of international news organizations are accessible to browsers inside China."

Source: United Airlines in-flight Wifi registration page.
Date: December 3, 2014
Background: According to United Airlines, passengers are able to access in-flight Wifi services for the entire globe except for Antarctica, the Andes mountains, the northeast portions of Siberia, and the People's Republic of China.

Date: November 10, 2014
Background: In “Tracing the Path of a Censored Weibo Post and Compiling Keywords that Trigger Automatic Review” by Jason Q. Ng, the author created the following visualization to explain what happens when a Sina Weibo user tries to post something on the service.

  • 1) User submits a message with keywords on the explicit filtering blacklist. They receive a message “Sorry, this content violates … regulated regulations and policies. Operation cannot be specified.” (“抱歉,此内容违反了《微博社区管理规定(试行)》或相关法规政策,无法进行指定操作。查看帮助:。”) The user must remove the blacklisted keyword before being able to post. The submission is censored.
  • 2A) If the post contains certain keywords, it may be automatically and instantaneously held for review by becoming invisible to all outside users. From the moment it is posted until it is reviewed by a censor, the post is invisible. From our two tests, it appears to take roughly 30 minutes before judgment is rendered on a post, but the amount of time no doubt varies depending on day of week and time of day.
  • 3) User submits a message with keywords on the implicit filtering blacklist. They receive a message “Posted successfully. Please be patient about 1-2 minutes delay due to server synchronization, thank you.” (“你的微博发布成功。目前服务器数据同步可能会有延时,所以麻烦耐心等待1-2分钟哦,非常感谢。”)
  • 3A/B) As noted by Zhu, this can sometimes take hours, but in other cases, can take about 30 minutes before the post—if approved (or not disapproved) by the censors—actually appears on a user’s timeline.
  • 4A/B) Quite rarely in our preliminary tests is a user actually informed that they have submitted unacceptable content and that it has been deleted (see Screenshot below). One of our accounts which did receive six of these notices received a warning notice and a 48 hour ban on posting (“您好,您被其他用户举报涉嫌违规。根据《微博社区管理规定(试行)》,您的账号将被禁言48小时。查看帮助:”), but no others did. Much more common is for posts to be rendered invisible (just as they were in 2A1) with no notice given to the user at all.
  • 4C) Simply deleting a user’s account was quite common in our preliminary tests. It sometimes occurred hours after the account finished posting any messages, and sometimes occurred within seconds. Sometimes, the user was offered the opportunity to recover their account by submitting an appeal. However, due to the types of account used for the study and style of submitting content, we likely experienced much higher than typical rates of account deletion (as opposed to King who crafted genuine looking posts, thus likely evading banning due to certain filters looking for span and other non-standard user behavior).

Monday, January 5, 2015

State Media Censors Child's Suggestion that President Xi Jinping Lose Weight

On December 17, 2014, the Zhengzhou Evening News published a story entitled “What Would Your Child Say if You Let Him Write a Letter to Uncle Xi?” (让你孩子给习大大写信,会写啥?). Some excerpts:
The author of the letter to the General Secretary was an elementary school student by the name of Niu Ziru, a fourth grader at the Best International School on Hangmu Road. . .  .
During last month's APEC meeting convened in Beijing, Niu Ziru saw Uncle Xi photographed together with all the other economic leaders, "I felt that Uncle Xi carried himself like a Chairman, and did credit to his countrymen, it was just that he was a bit fat." Therefore, at the end of the letter he wrote: "Ok, so lets talk about something a bit lighter. Uncle Xi, you could stand to lose some weight. You don't have to be as thin as Obama. It would be ok to just look like Putin."
. . . .
These screenshots were taken on December 18, 2014, and show that the article, which appeared on page A12 of the print addition and which was originally available here - - was deleted from the Zhengzhou Evening News website.

This screen video shows that the article was reposted on many China-based news portals under the title “Elementary School Student Writes to Chairman Xi Encouraging Uncle Xi to Lose Weight” (小学生欲致信习总书记打趣建议习大大减肥), and that those websites also deleted it.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Global Times Claims China's Journalists "Do Not Enjoy Free Speech as Their Western Counterparts Do"

On December 18, 2014, the state sponsored Global Times published an article entitled “Western Supremacy Echoed in RWB Report” (in English) and “Claims That ‘China is World Leading Jailer of Journalists’ is a Foreign Rumor” (“中国拘禁记者全球最多”是洋谣言) in Chinese. The English version stated:
Chinese journalists do not enjoy free speech as their Western counterparts do, but being detained or arrested by the government is certainly not the normal state of their work and life.
The Chinese version stated:
We do not believe that the work environment for China’s journalists is without problems, and we have a heartfelt hope that the space for expression for news media personnel can continue to expand.

As noted previously on this blog, just days before publishing this the Global Times published another op-ed claiming that "Online political discussions on China’s Internet are the most lively on the planet."