By Les Lothringer
E-Mailed to Peace and Freedom from Inside China
March 31, 2008
From: West / Asia Strategy Consultants.
ChengDu, SiChuan Province, China.
An eye catching and critical story has just appeared in the Australian media, with saturation coverage throughout the land concerning China’s Internet and supposed government censorship. Yet the story is seriously factually incorrect. This is not the first time such articles have appeared in the Australian media and so one must question the competence and motivation of the journalist as well as the competance of the editors to establish the factual basis of these stories before running them.
The abovementioned article can be seen at http://www.theage.com.au/news/web/the-great-firewall-of-china/2008/03/18/1205602389513.html and other online websites.[Peace and Freedom Note: Although we could not find the exact article the author refers to, we published this similar story:
China’s Golden Cyber-Shield ]
I am in China right now, ChengDu SiChuan Province in fact and I am putting to the test several of this journalist Patricia Maunder’s propositions.
Proposition 1: You can’t look up Bird Flu on Google.
Actually you can and I just did! What is more, you can go to several of the listed sites and I just did, including the US Centre for Disease Control concerning Bird Flu. There is much to read there. I found a map of bird flu effected countries and it included China.
The “Great Wall of China.”
Proposition 2: You can’t access Religion on Wikipedia.
This statement is misleading because you can’t access anything on Wikipedia in China, but you can access many religious websites and, again, I just did, including the BBC’s Religion and Ethics webpage. Again, much to read there.
Proposition 3: You can’t access Amnesty International.
Factually misleading. Yes, you do get a timeout accessing the Amnesty International website but you can access it at SourceWatch and read all about it. The time taken for me to find an alternative web site to Amnesty International? Thirty seconds.
Proposition 4: Full identification must be shown at Internet Cafes.
At this point I have to question whether this author has ever been in China, beyond booking into a hotel here. I just checked with several Chinese colleagues who are regular Internet cafe users. None of them have ever produced their shenfenzheng (ID card). On the odd occasion where I have used an Internet Cafe I have never had to produce my passport.
Proposition 5: In China there is an ‘alarming’ level of self-censorship.
I am unsure what ‘alarming’ exactly means here but, yes, self-censorship does apply, as any Chinese journalist will admit. I observe that self-censorship applies in democratic countries too, which leads one to conclude that here in China people know that censorship exists whereas in some Western democracies could one easy point to numerous deceptions and concealments concerning those countries’ execution of their foreign policy, along with a population deluded into thinking they actually have a free and critical news service feed.
Proposition 6: Reporters without Borders lists those nations considered to be among the worst ‘internet enemies’.
Quiet so. Several countries listed are either client states or trading partners of Western states, none are democracies and some have appalling human rights records. The point made is naive – not being a democracy is not a barrier to commercial relationships with the West. One could say the same of China and so conclude that major democratic powers and non-democratic ones too pursue their foreign policy objectives in remarkably similar ways.
Interestingly, this factually incorrect article is itself not blocked here. It is not the first time the Australian media has run articles critical of China without verifying the facts.
Peace and Freedom Note: We do not agree with Mr. Lothringer. In fact, he told us he was unable to read his own essay on this site because this site (we know) is blocked in China. Mr. Lothringer’s daughter in Australia opend this site without a problem….]
Google’s China Problem (and China’s Google Problem)