Dousing the Great (Fire)Wall, gradually

When I was in China last summer for a feature writing study abroad class, our University of Miami group discussed the Internet, freedom of speech and censorship with a number of the Chinese journalism students. What we learned and gleaned from their perspectives was quite interesting.

As you can tell from my occasional China posts, I am very interested in these topics, especially speech/press-related issues. (Shameless plug: Check out our class blog and my stories from the trip).

Here is an excerpt from a New York Times article, Great Firewall of China Faces Online Rebels:

“In recent months, China’s censors have tightened controls over the Internet, often blacking out sites that had no discernible political content. In the process, they have fostered a backlash, as many people who previously had little interest in politics have become active in resisting the controls.”

During our stay, I found a few proxy sites to get around some of the censored sites. One of the strangest sites that was completely censored was Wikipedia.

I don’t have a problem with the Chinese people or China in general. I found the country fascinating and the trip the most enlightening I’ve ever taken. My problem is with the lack of freedom: Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble and to protest the government for redress of grievances.

Journalism and free speech are improving with time, mostly due to the power of the Internet. (mobile phones are also playing an important role). The government may continue clamping down in response, but people are gradually pushing back.

One thought on “Dousing the Great (Fire)Wall, gradually”

  1. Most of the push for more press freedom in China is coming through citizen journalism, and many of the sites that get blocked are tied in with that movement. Flickr went dark in the midst of protests over a chemical plant in Xiamen, where activists used the photo-sharing site (and text messaging) to spread the word about protests. YouTube was blocked for about two weeks, part of which included the 17th Party Congress this past fall. It also coincided with the launch of local versions of YouTube in Taiwan and Hong Kong, both in Chinese (though in traditional characters).

    Look for more open channels to get hit before the Olympics. At the moment, there are no (or very few, depending on the day and the Net Nanny’s mood) free blogging platforms available in China, except for the major portals, which get censored more than anything.

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