Internet Censorship in China

Although Americans may feel some what stifled by the ever-increasing government surveillance measures being passed by the legislative branch, a brief look at the predicament of the Chinese people will show Americans that they still have plenty to be grateful for… at least for now.

As it stands, if an internet user based in China types words like “persecution” or “Tibetan independence” into a search engine, they’re likely to find only an almost completely blank screen that reads only “page cannot be displayed.”

firewall of chinaThe Chinese government has responded to rising political tension by censoring as much government-critical information on the internet as possible. Gone are the chatrooms and websites that once spurred and organized protests and riots across the nation.

Not to say the government has plucked out political insurgence by the roots; an army of self-described hacktivists are fighting the government’s iron grip on the internet every day, and from all around the world.

North Carolina based software engineer Bill Xia is a prime example. He contributes to a growing accumulation of new software that helps ordinary Chinese citizens beat the infamous “Great Firewall of China” and access information on subjects the government would rather sweep under the rug: subjects like Chinese human rights and the plight of Tibet.

Xia jokingly calls his software a “red pill”, a reference to a pill in┬áThe Matrix that allows takers to see reality for the first time.

That said, his efforts are constantly curtailed by the Chinese government, forcing him to revamp his efforts and creatively find another way around the censorship giant.

“They are very smart,” he admits. “We have to move very quickly.”

url blockedChinese citizens aren’t the only people to fall victim to government censorship in the information age. The governments of Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan all use software to limit what their people can see and curb political dissent.

North Korea bans all online access to its general population.

China, however, can’t balance such heavy-handed censorship with its economic aspirations. It much encourage internet usage among its citizens in hopes of stimulating a healthy outgrowth of tech enthusiasts while curtailing any opposition that may bring.

The Olympics have only further fostered the Chinese government’s attempts to censor the Web. Clips and articles regarding the Tiber pro-independence riots were banned all together for days on end and the potential for human rights organizations to use the Olympics to make their voices heard constituted a major threat to China’s federal leadership.

Unfortunately for dissidents, the government has no issue throwing hacktivists behind bars if they’re based in Chinese soil. One Chinese AIDS activist by the name of Hu Jia was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for writing articles for a banned U.S.-based Chinese-language website. Almost 50 cyberdissidents were behind bars in 2014, and more have surely followed.

Even hacktivists outside of China may face risks for their taking part in the battle against Chinese censorship. One Chinese-born computer specialist named Peter Li was attacked in his house in a suburb outside of Atlanta, Georgia. The thugs apparently spoke Korean and Chinese while beating him and eventually made off with his two computers, leaving his TV and other valuables untouched.

According to Li, the men must have been sent but the Chinese government.

“I know it wasn’t a simple robbery,” he asserted.

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