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

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.

WordPress is blocked in China again

It is sad that I learned from my good friend Joseph that my WordPress blog is now unavailable in the Mainland as it was and still blocked by the authority. The reason that I have one blog hosted in 163.com and one hosted in WordPress is that WordPress at one time was blocked in the Mainland but to my surprise it was unblocked a couple months ago and now it is blocked. The on and off, blocked and unblocked, is not good for a blog like mine, which has minimal political content yet it was affected by the country’s policy ebbs nonetheless.

It is extremely inconvenient for me to post my blogs at two different websites. Besides it defeats the purpose of me trying to bring the peoples of the two different cultures together. I think no social net or blog could be successful with both Chinese and western readers, although I am trying to do that impossible task. The reason I say this is that any one who is successful in doing so would be a victim of his own success. It is because there are people who would do things just to get on the Chinese authority nerves and would use such forum to achieve their purposes. Apparently there is no such forum at the moment. If there were one, I am sure it would be inundated with materials that would guarantee a shut down by the Chinese authority.

Further, there are some professional bloggers, which have economic motives to irritate or provoke the Chinese people or authority. They know some of the sensitive topics would guarantee strong and emotional reactions from the Chinese people. As I have written in my post on 17th November, 2009 entitled, China, one big blogging country, it was estimated that China has a blogging population of 182 million people at around September 2009. There is no single country which has such a big blogging population. If a blogger could make a name in the China, even in an underhanded way, it would be like printing money or like selling Big Macs in China. I need to point out they are so called professional bloggers because they earn money by putting advertisements in their blogs and more readers mean more advertising revenues.

Having said that I do not support a controlled internet policy. As a Hong Konger, I am used to and all for an open door policy in respect of internet use and information. Speaking from personal experience, I know my Mainland compatriots are sophisticated enough to tell which is true and which is untrue in respect of news or information received through the internet or other medias.

It brings me to another sad news is that Google reportedly is contemplating pulling out of the China market if its ends to self censorship are not acceptable to the Chinese authority. I am a big fan of Google. I use Google’s search engine for researches on my blog topics and on my English style and grammar. The other day my friend asked me a English grammar question: whether it is “make a voice heard” or “make a voice be heard”. At first glance, both seem correct. However, when I did a Google search, there were hundred of results for the former and none for the latter. So it is clear the former is the correct one. If Google indeed pulls out of the China market, I think it would be a great loss to the English learning community in China. With no disrespect to Baidu, which I think is a great search engine, personally I think as far as non-Chinese languages searches are concerned it has no competition against Google. Similarly, I think it would be a great loss to commercial business users in China too. Last week, my US principal asked me to search for certain machine parts, which are not available in the US. First off, I looked for a possible China supplier and did a Baidu search, but it came up with no answer. Then I did a Google search and found out that a part supplier in Poland had them in stock. What I intend to point out is that in the commercial world more information the better, a Google loss could be a China loss.

I hope Google and the China authority could work out an amicable settlement and my friends in the Mainland could continue to enjoy the great resources that Google has built up in English language searches.

From China bashing to China praising

 

Wen Jiabao comforts a wounded child <img src=

I had previously written on the Tibet issue and criticised the western medias for China bashing. Nevertheless, I did not say the western medias were entirely to be blamed (read more in my blog of 24/04/08 ). I am happy to see that the western medias have overwhelmingly turned to praising China in its handling of the current Sichuan earthquake.

The Los Angeles Times reported that “Amid Tragedy lies opportunity:”

“Within a few hours after the quake, the Communist Party’s central propaganda department issued an order that Chinese news organizations not send reporters to the scene, but instead only use material from CCTV or from the official New China News Agency. What happened next, however, indicates how much China has changed… And Chinese media broadly ignored the propaganda department’s order. Many newspapers and regional television stations sent reporters to the scene. By Tuesday, the propaganda department appeared to have given up, and simply instructed that journalists “implement the spirit of the central government and use a reporting tone stressing unity, stability and positive publicity,” according to a journalist who had read the order

In The Wall Street Journal, Chinese born, raised and educated reporter, Li Yuan reported that “Sichuan Quake Shows Changing China:”

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Sichuan within hours, accompanied by the state press corps. State media, from the Central Television Station to the Xinhua News Agency (my former employer), covered the disaster vigorously. ”

The New York Times reported that “A Rescue in China, Uncensored

Dali Yang, the director of the East Asian Institute in Singapore, said the [Chinese] government might have come to the realization that openness and accountability could bolster its legitimacy and counter growing anger over corruption, rising inflation and the disparity between the urban rich and the rural poor. “I think their response to this disaster shows they can act, and they can care,” he said. “They seem to be aware that a disaster like this can pull the country together and bring them support…

“Mr. Shi [a professor of media studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing] said he was surprised by the government’s candor and the vigor of the state-run Chinese press… like many experts, he said the Olympics were pushing China to experiment with a greater degree of openness. “This is the first time the Chinese media has lived up to international standards,” he said, adding, “I think the government is learning some lessons from the past.””

The Times magazine and the Washington Posts made similar comments in the respective articles entitled “China Quake Damage Control” and “China Expedites Vast Rescue Operation.

At the centre of all these media mania is none other than the people premier, Wen Jiabao. Within 2  hours of the earthquake, Wen was already on the plane flying from Beijing to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. Wen then immediately proceeded to the epicenter of the earthquake, Beichuan, overseeing the rescue operation. Wen of course knew the seriousness of a scale 7.9 earthquake as his training was in geology. Wen had promptly mobilised the military forces and medical staff to the scene. If China were to proscrinate (like Mynamar), the casualties would have been more serious than the 50,000 deaths currently estimated.

We could see Wen at various cities around the epicenter of the earthquake directing the rescue units, comforting and lending support to the victims and their relatives. In the photo above, Wen was personally comforting a child wounded in the earthquake. What Wen did not only won the praises of the western medias but also touched the hearts of over 1.4 billion Chinese all over the world. 

What is more important is that China did not blame the disaster on “heaven” (which Chinese (the race) would traditionally do on such occasion). As a matter of fact, the country tries to get to the root of the problem. The state run newspaper, China Daily, said in its Editorials that “we cannot afford not to raise uneasy questions about the structural quality of the school buildings“. A large number of school children died as a result of the collapses of the schools. The central government of China announced that it would launch a full scale investigation into whether some local officials had violated state policies with regard to the construction of schools. It was said that some of the schools were built of shoddy quality and some violated the height restrictios. The government had made it clear that any officials, if found guilty of wrongdoings, would be seriously reprimanded.  

I think the same investigions should be extended to other buildings in the affected cities as well as throughout the nation. Personally, I think, due to the rapid economic growth of the country, China has been laxed in its approval of building constructions, especially at the local level.

On 15 May, China, in a news conference, welcomed assistance in the form of medical aids from other countries, which is quite unusally as China tends to keep things of such nature as its internal affairs. Financially, China should have no diffiulties in meeting the huge expenses to be incurred in this disaster. However, China lacks experience, resources and expertise in dealing with earthquake of this magnitude. As a matter of fact, volunteers from the United States and Japan are giving their helping hands to China. This certainly helps ease the tension between tbe Chinese people and foreigners, which made headlines news recently.

The Sichuan earthquake is a real tradegy. The only good thing comes out of it probably is the apparent change of attitude of the western medias towards China and verse versa.  Let’s hope that this crisis would live up to the true sense of this word in Chinese,  “危机 “, which semantically means “to every danger there is an opportunity”. Let’s make it an opportunity that China would view the western medias and foreigners in a more positive light.

 

Western medias: China bashing?

This is a sequel to my blog on “Fight bias with bias”.  In the video in question, the author accused the western medias for being biased towards China especially in the Tibet fiasco.  The video showed that the Chinese Han people in Tibet were being beaten up by Tibetans and their shops were being vandalised. Those clips were the same as those I saw on CCTV (the China National TV) and I do not believe that they have been doctored. If any one had seen those clips one would not be on the Tibetans’ side. Then why the western media were on the Tibetans side?  I do not think the western medias were entirely to be blamed.

The western medias were not given an opportunity to report the fiasco on the scene as they were barred by the Chinese authorities to do so. As a matter of fact the outside medias, including Hong Hong journalists, were ordered to leave Tibet soon after the roits broke out. To voice their discontent. Hong Kong reporters through the Hong Kong Journalists Association in its March report issued a terse statement protesting the way that they were treated by the China authorities. I can see how the western medias, like CNN, BBC and the likes, got ticked off and, under the circumstances, they wrote negatively about the incident and most of their readers could only see it in the same perspective. My question is: why can’t the China authority let the outside medias go to Tibet? 

With the benefit of seeing the reporting of the incident from both sides, I could see it objectively, but honestly, I still have not formed a definite view yet. 

The Olympic torch is coming to Hong Kong about 9 days from now. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

Fight bias with bias 以毒供毒 or 以暴易暴

One of  my friends posted  a video on www.italki.com and invited other friends to make comments on it. The video blamed the recent misfortunes of China on the west and accused the western medias for being biased.  It further called for the Chinese people to stand up and fight the west.

The video, no doubt, is an entertaining one, but a watcher should treat it that way and nothing more. In passing I think it is a good piece of material for our italki friends for learning Chinese because it was fitted with Chinese and English titles, although the English left much to be desired.  The video itself is one of the most biased pieces of “reporting” I have ever seen.  Was the author of the video provoking “fight bias with bias” 以毒供毒 (literally means fight poison with poison) or fight violence with violence 以暴易暴?

My Spanish friends from time to time asked  me about my opinion on the “Tibet issue”. I have made known to them that, being a Han Chinese (汉族人),  I am all for “Tibet being part of China”. However, many of the Tibetans definitely feel otherwise. I think the Central Government of China has been or will treat the Tibetans fairly and squarely, just as what it has been doing to Hong Kong. That said, the grievances of the Tibetans deserve to be heard. According to the Chinese Foriegn Ministry the door is open for a dialogue with Dalai Lama subject to certain conditions. I think both sides should sit down and talk and resolve the matters amicably instead of being distracted by side issues. 

Readers are reminded of the “The seven steps verse 七歩诗” of 曹植, which I put up in my blog on April 13 2008. The relevant part of the poem says”本是同根生,相煎何太急?” (Born are we of the same root, brother, should you now burn me with such disregard?). 

I feel this poem applies to the disputes among neighbouring countries of my Spanish friends.