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<nettime> fwdfyi: China's leaders launch 'smokeless war' against Interne
Patrice Riemens on Tue, 27 Sep 2005 09:57:34 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> fwdfyi: China's leaders launch 'smokeless war' against Internet and media dissent


My My, it's getting smokier and smokier in the Empire of the Middle. 


===bwo Cyber-Society-Live list===

China's leaders launch smokeless war against internet and media dissent 
* News deemed contrary to national interest is banned 
* Party summit decides to target 'liberal elements'

Benjamin Joffe-Walt in Shanghai
Monday September 26, 2005
The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/china/story/0,7369,1578189,00.html

China announced a fresh crackdown yesterday on the internet amid further
revelations of a plan by Hu Jintao, the president, to suppress dissent. 

"The state bans the spreading of any news with content that is against 
national security and public interest," said a statement from Xinhua, the 
official news agency. The announcement called for blogs and personal web 
pages to "be directed towards serving the people and socialism and insist 
on correct guidance of public opinion for maintaining national and public 
interests".

The statement was just one of a series of initiatives by the government to 
root out politically sensitive news from domestic and foreign media.

On Thursday a Chinese journalist and former professor was given a 
seven-year sentence for "inciting subversion" by writing hundreds of 
articles for banned overseas news websites.

Last month the government tried to implement a scheme to pay journalists 
according to how much Communist party officials liked, or disliked, their 
articles. In July a political activist was given five years for posting a 
punk song on the internet deemed to be subversive, and in April a 
journalist was sentenced to 10 years for sending an email overseas about 
restrictions on freedom of speech.

Providing further evidence of an organised national crackdown, the New 
York Times reported yesterday that Mr Hu called for a "smokeless war" 
against "liberal elements" in China during a secret leadership meeting in 
May.

The government employs a cyberspace police rumoured to number 30,000 and 
has spent lavishly on internet filters. Journalists and human rights 
organisations say the "smokeless war" amounts to a transformation of the 
government's tactics from violence, open harassment and the closing of 
newspapers to more covert methods of maintaining control. Journalists who 
try write on forbidden topics are rarely attacked directly, but are 
discredited by charges such as corruption, sexual harassment and 
extramarital affairs.

They claim confiscation of notes, address books and mobile phones happen 
secretly beneath a facade that nothing is wrong, so as to defend the image 
of the party and its leaders.

"They are trying to safeguard the welfare of the regime, while 
simultaneously providing for the illusion of a free liberal press," said 
Law Yuk-kai of the Hong Kong-based Human Rights Monitor.

"But the internet provides a new way to organise people and is therefore a 
mounting threat to the government."

With a growing income gap and agitated unions, migrant workers and 
students, Mr Law said the government was feeling increasingly threatened 
by any media that provide outlets for expression of dissent. "They are in 
a bind. On the one hand they want to encourage economic development but on 
the other hand they want to strangle any political initiatives by those 
not benefiting from the new China."

While many governments prevent the free flow of controversial information 
by simply banning the internet altogether, China's strategy has been one 
of controlled welcome - exploiting the internet's phenomenal potential to 
drive China's its globalised economy while simultaneously suppressing its 
potential for freedom of expression.

The current struggle in the Chinese media began in the 1990s when the 
government cut funding to various media outlets, forcing them to engage in 
a balancing act between encouraging circulation [through genuine news] and 
servicing the propaganda department [as most media are required to do]. 

"When [former president] Jiang Zemin came to power, the propaganda 
department began controlling all Chinese media," said one high-ranking 
editor of a party-run newspaper with close government connections. "After 
Hu Jintao became president, there was an effort to open up. But after 
about six months the central government started getting complaints from 
local officials about their inability to govern because of media reports 
exposing corruption in their administrations ... everything reversed- 
there was a big policy change back to the way things were."

The editor told the Guardian that the row in the party centred on the 
president's lack of authority over local leaders. Yesterday China gambled 
with a goodwill gesture to pro-democracy members of Hong Kong's 
legislature, inviting them to mainland China for the first time in more 
than 15 years. But the visit appeared to backfire when at least one member 
of the group wore a T-shirt with a picture of tanks in Tiananmen square, a 
symbol of the 1989 pro-democracy protests in which hundreds of students 
were killed. 

Background

China has built the most sophisticated government-controlled internet on 
earth, often hailed as "the Great Firewall". With the help of western 
technology firms and internet companies, China filters foreign sites, 
restricts blog postings, limits online chats and censors instant messages 
for the second-largest online population in the world.

While the barriers are easy to get around with a bit of techno-wizardry, 
journalists, editors, internet service providers and cybercafe owners are 
all under heavy pressure to abide by the rules and to self-censor to stay 
in business. The experience can frustrate - thousands of sites are 
blocked, emails can just disappear and even search engines will not turn 
up results for certain words. Banned phrases from news sites, blogs and 
instant messaging services include independence, democracy, Taiwan, 
Tiananmen Square, freedom and the Dalai Lama



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