My thoughts on Venezuela’s likely censorship of the internet

It looks like Venezuela is following China’s example as Chavez is likely to impose control over the internet. I have written on the subject at my blog and on how Hong Kong, notwithstanding being part of China, has probably the freeest press in the world. Read about it at my blog at Weebly.com

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The Qing Ming Festival 清眀节 The Tomb Sweeping Day

Next Monday, 5th of April, is the Chinese Qing Ming festival, or Tombs Sweeping day, which coincides with the Easter Monday. It is a tradition on that day that we pay respects to our ancestors or those loved ones who passed away. Ancient Chinese wisdom never fails. As our famous poet Du Mu, in his poem of the same title relevantly wrote “ceaseless drizzles drip all the dismal day”. The weather around that day is almost guarantee to be damp, windy, drizzling and etc.. This year is likely to be no exception. You can see from the picture that I took at one o’clock in the afternoon today from my window looking outside, the weather was sheer miserable. Read more about the festival and the famous poem at my blog. Click here.

Google is “covering one’s ears to steal a bell 掩耳盗铃”

On 24th of March I posted an article written by a Bloomberg correspondent entitled “Google Faces No Hong Kong Censors After China Retreat”. It seems that Google has upheld its stance on internet freedom. The fact is that Google only passes the ball to China’s court. It is now the China authorities who are doing the censorship. It is confirmed that China has screened Google’s contents and blocked those topics which they do not like. The Chinese netizens (net users) still do not have access to such sensitive topics on Tiananmen Massacre, Tibet,, Dalai Lama, Falun Gong etc. I am a big Google fan and I am all for Google’s intent and purpose. However,  I have reservation the way they handle the matter.  What Google doing is akin to an ancient Chinese metaphor, 掩耳盗铃. More on this below.

The metaphor

掩耳盗铃 (yan er dao ling) literally means “covering one’s ears to steal a bell” in English or “Taperse los oídos al robar una campanilla” in Spanish. It actually means “deceiving oneself” or “engañarse a sí mismo“. It has similar meaning to “bury one’s head in the sand” or “esconder la cabeza debajo del ala

The origin of the metaphor can be traced back to the ancient China’s Spring and Autumn Period (476BC to 770BC). History had it that a thief at the time tried to steal a big and heavy copper bell from a house. He could not move it so he had to break it into pieces. The thief found a big hammer and tried to do so. He realized that it would produce a very loud noise and would draw others’ attention.  To avoid that he stuck some fabrics into his ears. He thought others, like him, could not hear it when he hit the bell with the hammer. Needless to say that was not the case and he got caught.

Do you agree what Google doing is 掩耳盗铃? Please take a vote:

Google da un portazo a China

Below is an article published by El.Pais about Google moving its China search function to Hong Kong. From the article you can see the relationship between Hong Kong and Mainland China.

Cumpliendo su promesa de acabar con la censura impuesta por Pekín a su buscador, Google desmanteló ayer su portal en China y redirigió las búsquedas a su página radicada en Hong Kong. Después de más de dos meses de negociación con el régimen chino, los directivos de la empresa en California han decidido que es imposible mantener una presencia online en aquel país y han optado por ofrecer una versión en chino de su buscador genérico, sin los filtros ni la censura que aplicaron a Google.cn desde su lanzamiento en 2006. Para ello han decidido someterse la legislación de Hong Kong, una región autónoma dentro de China desde 1997, que ofrece a sus ciudadanos una libertad mucho mayor en Internet.

“Queremos que la mayor cantidad posible de gente tenga acceso a nuestros servicios, incluidos los usuarios de China. Pero el Gobierno chino ha dejado muy claro en sus conversaciones con nosotros que la auto-censura es un requerimiento legal no negociable”, dijo el vicepresidente ejecutivo David Drummond ayer por la tarde, en una entrada en el blog corporativo de la empresa. “Tenemos la esperanza de que el Gobierno de China respete nuestra decisión, aunque somos conscientes de que podría bloquear el acceso a nuestros servicios en cualquier momento”.

Hong Kong se incorporó a China en 1997, bajo un acuerdo entre Londres y Pekín según el cual la antigua colonia británica mantendría un elevado sistema de autonomía durante 50 años. Las únicas normas de censura que se aplican en Hong Kong atañen a casos de pornografía online. “En Hong Kong se aplica la norma de un país con dos sistemas. Es el crisol de la disidencia china en Internet, tiene una libertad online que no existe en el resto del país. Movimientos políticos o religiosos que no son permitidos en China, como Falun Gong, operan libremente allí”, explica Rebecca MacKinnon, una reputada investigadora de la Universidad de Princeton que hasta hace poco fue profesora en la Universidad de Hong Kong.

Ya sin censura

En el buscador de Google alojado en Hong Kong no existe ya ningún tipo de censura, en un claro desafío a Pekín. Aparecen búsquedas sobre la matanza de la plaza de Tiananmen en 1989, sobre el movimiento religioso de Falun Gong y sobre el Dalai Lama y la independencia de Tíbet. “El hecho de que sus servidores se alojen en Hong Kong implica que las autoridades chinas no podrán detener o procesar a ninguno de los responsables de mantener la página web”, añade McKinnon. “El único recurso que le queda a Pekín es el bloqueo total de algunas páginas o del sitio completo. Si Pekín quiere censurarlo, deberá prohibirlo por completo”.

En Hong Kong, una ciudad de siete millones de habitantes, se utiliza principalmente un chino escrito con caracteres denominados tradicionales. La empresa ha modificado su buscador Google.com.hk para que aparezca con un interfaz escrito con unos caracteres chinos simplificados, que son los que se utilizan en el resto de China, donde habita una comunidad de internautas que las últimas cifras oficiales colocan en torno a los 400 millones. Los internautas que se conecten a la red desde direcciones IP de Hong Kong seguirán teniendo acceso a una versión de la web en chino tradicional, como hasta ahora.

Google también anunció ayer que, de momento, sus oficinas en China seguirán en funcionamiento. Allí emplea a unas 600 personas, la mitad en el departamento de investigación y desarrollo y la otra mitad en el de ventas. “Aun así, el tamaño del equipo de ventas dependerá parcialmente de la capacidad de los usuarios de China de acceder a Google.com.hk”, según aclaró ayer el vicepresidente en su blog. Además, aclaró que la decisión de abandonar la censura y su salida de China fue una decisión “tomada por los ejecutivos de EE UU, algo de lo que los empleados en China no pueden ni deben ser considerados responsables”.

El anuncio de Google pone fin a más de dos meses de negociaciones con el régimen de Pekín para cumplir lo que la empresa prometió a sus usuarios: dejar de doblegarse ante las estrictas normas de censura de China, a las que sí se someten otras empresas como Microsoft o Skype. El anuncio inicial lo hizo la empresa en el mismo blog corporativo, el pasado 12 de enero, al revelar un ataque de hackers chinos, relacionados con el Gobierno de Pekín, contra sus servidores.

Google Faces No Hong Kong Censors After China Retreat

The article below shows how the “one country, two systems”, under which Hong Kong is governed by China, works.

March 24 (Bloomberg) — Hong Kong says it won’t help China censor Google Inc., after the search engine provider said it would route mainland users through its site in the city.

Hong Kong respects freedom of information and its free flow, a spokesman for the city’s Information Services Department said yesterday, declining to be identified as a matter of policy. There are no restrictions on access to Web sites, including access to Hong Kong-based Web sites from China, he said.

While China regularly blocks content from Web sites outside its borders, Hong Kong’s reaction illustrates the autonomy it enjoys under the “One Country, Two Systems” policy that guided its 1997 return to Chinese sovereignty. Hong Kong’s constitution, the Basic Law, guarantees freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom and privacy of communication.

The government’s response to Google’s move yesterday “highlights Hong Kong’s advantages,” said David Zweig, a political scientist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “It’s worth reminding people that they can come to Hong Kong because of ‘One Country, Two Systems.”

Thirteen years after the Hong Kong handover, Beijing has done little to meddle in management of the city — home to Asia’s third-largest stock market by capitalization, 34 billionaires and the world’s third-highest office rents.

News, Rumors

“One of Hong Kong’s key rationales as a financial center is its freedom of information,” said Michael DeGolyer, professor of government and international studies at Hong Kong Baptist University. “One reason that fund management is in the city and not in China is freedom of information. If you can’t get either the news or the rumor you’re not going to be able to buy and sell with any accuracy. This is why Hong Kong is still the financial center of China.”

Google decided to direct traffic to the Hong Kong site after a two-month dispute with the Chinese government over censorship. Analysts say China will continue to control content within its borders, blocking content from Hong Kong and beyond.
“It’s very likely that Google.com.hk will be blocked at least as aggressively as Google.com was and, more likely, probably more aggressively,” said Ben Schachter, an analyst at Broadpoint AmTech Inc. in San Francisco.

Google’s Conscience

So instead of censoring itself, Google is placating its conscience by having China do the filtering, Andy Xie, an independent economist, said in a phone interview.

Given that Apple Daily, a mass circulation Chinese-language newspaper, operates in Hong Kong with an editorial line severely critical of the mainland government, the rerouting of searches is unlikely to prompt a crackdown in the city, Xie said.

“Of course, the Chinese government is unhappy about Google’s decision because of the cost” of censoring increased Web traffic, Xie said.

By late morning yesterday, searches for “Tiananmen” on computers in Shanghai and Beijing could not be displayed, suggesting the government had started limiting access.

Since the People’s Liberation Army entered Hong Kong at midnight on June 30, 1997, the city’s 7 million residents have continued to enjoy freedoms far beyond those of their counterparts across the border in mainland China.

In 2003, the local population even overturned planned restrictions on freedom. After about half a million people marched against anti-subversion legislation, then-Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa withdrew the plan and later resigned.

To be sure, Hong Kong lacks fully democratic elections, a target promised in the Basic Law that Beijing has indicated will not occur before 2020. China has criticized the tactics of legislators seeking a faster pace of progress.

Other things prohibited in China remain legal in Hong Kong.

The Falun Gong spiritual movement, banned in China as an “evil cult,” operates openly in Hong Kong, organizing displays in public places such as the Star Ferry pier publicizing allegations of abuse by the mainland government.

And groups, from Trotskyists demanding full democracy and the departure of Chief Executive Donald Tsang to bar workers denouncing plans to limit indoor smoking, demonstrate freely.

The Hong Kong Flowers Show 香港花卉展览

Last Friday, I went to the Flowers Show held in the Hong Kong Victoria Park, which is situated in the middle of the city. The show, which is a two weeks event, features a wide variety of flowers, plants and shrubs grown locally or imported from overseas. It also features landscapes designed by horticulture enthusiasts from Hong Kong and neighbouring countries. Honestly, the show is nothing spectacular but it attracts a lot of local visitors. It is a big event for Hong Kong because we can hardly see flowers and landscapes in Hong Kong, let alone so many of them all in one place. As you can see from my pictures, visitors were busy taking pictures and kids were having a good time. Further, you can see the skyscrapers at the background. That is Hong Kong, nothing but people and skyscrapers. Overall, I enjoyed the occasion very much.

上周五我去每年一度为期两周的花卉展览会,该展会在港岛市中心维多利亚公园举行,当天全场布满五彩缤纷花卉,各式各种的灌木及参展单位的园林设计,说实话该项目不如大会宣传所说是世界园艺盛事,但在香港这个石屎森林有这类型的活动也吸引到大批香港居民热烈捧场,由我上传照片可看到拍照发烧友疯狂拍照及小孩开心的情况,可知其欢迎程度。在照片背景可看到花园周围的高楼大厦,可知花草树木在香港是多珍贵。总的来说我很享受当天的活动。

A walk in the Shing Mun Country Park 漫步城门郊野公园


Last Thursday, I walked the Shing Mun Country Park, which houses one of Hong Kong largest reservoirs. The walk was very relaxing. I took a few pictures and posted some of them here. You may notice that one of the pictures got a monkey in it. The reservoir is a popular breeding ground for monkeys, which have multiplied to such an extent that they sometimes they threaten the safety of passers-by. It is an offence in laws to feed the monkeys in the park.  It was the best picture I could take. I would not dare to get closer to the monkey. I was afraid that it would grab my camera. Worse than that it might grab my head.

上周四我到香港新界城门郊野公园漫步,位于该公园是香港其中一个最大的同名称 之水库,该天我步行得很轻松, 我在这里放上几张拍到的照片,其中一张你可以 看到一只猴子,该水库是猴子繁殖的地方,其数量曾多至对游人安全构成威胁,在该公园喂饲料给猴子是冒犯法律,该照片是我可拍到得最好,我若再走近些,我怕 被它抢走相机,更糟糕是我的头都给它抓到。