· June, 2005

Stories about East Asia from June, 2005

Questions for Chinese bloggers

  30 June 2005

I have some questions for Chinese and China-based bloggers out there. (Please forgive my rusty Chinese… I'm much better at reading than writing, I'm afraid.) The extent of China's web filtering is often dismissed in the West as not such a big deal because people can use proxies to get...

Thursday Global Blog Roundup

  30 June 2005

We’re always looking for new ideas and good stories to write about. If you have a story or a blog post that you think would be a good fit for our daily roundups, email us with the link! Latin America Venezuelan News and Views speculates on why neither Trinidad and...

Wednesday Global Blog Roundup

We’re always looking for new ideas and good stories to write about. If you have a story or a blog post that you think would be a good fit for our daily roundups, email us with the link! Africa The Kenya Democracy Project applauds the growing independence of the Kenyan...

Tuesday Global Blog Roundup

  28 June 2005

We’re always looking for new ideas and good stories to write about. If you have a story or a blog post that you think would be a good fit for our daily roundups, email us with the link! South-East Asia Tales from Disiniland suggests that embattled Philippines President Gloria Arroyo...

Monday Global Blog Roundup

The Middle East A Free Iraqi does an interesting Q&A with his readers. Crossroads Arabia points to a news story that says that 2,500 scholarships are available for Saudis who want to study at American universities. While 2,500 students is a fairly large number, the American university system is so...

Friday Global Blog Roundup

South Asia United We Blog! puts out the call for more Nepalase bloggers. In furtherance of this goal, Uzz of UWB has translated WordPress into Nepali, and that tool will be availble to the public within two months… South-East Asia Sakdipat, at Thai-Blogs, blogs about her first day of school…...

Thursday World Blog Roundup

Africa: As Zimbabwe's government crackdown called “Operation Restore Order” evokes an international outcry, Sokwanele describes what it's like to “have stared into the face of evil.” The Zimbabwean Pundit calls for a boycott of South African goods to protest the fact that South African President Thabo Mbeki could be doing...

Wednesday World Blog Roundup

Central Asia & the Caucuses: The Farsi blog Shared Pains (winner of the 2005 RSF Freedom Blog award) has a post in English on freedom of expression in Afghanistan (hat-tip to Afghan Lord). Registan points to an interview with the leader of Uzbekistan's opposition coalition. On the 40th day of...

Tuesday Global Blog Roundup

The Middle East Mahmood of Mahmood's Den announces that he's not only going to take Reporters Without Borders’ guidelines for a free internet and translate them into Arabic, he's going to fax them to his members of Parliament. Why not email? Well, sending email to Bahraini MPs doesn't seem to...

Monday Global Blog Roundup

East Asia New Mongols, under the guise of a complaint about a Chinese museum of Mongolian culture, takes a close look at patriarchal Chinese attitudes towards Mongolia. An in-store McDonald’s ad has been accused of insulting all Chinese customers, reports Danwei. Like many similar stories that have come out of...

Chinese Bloggers on Censorship, MSN, Etc.

  17 June 2005

At CNBlog, Isaac says: “Don't Use MSN Spaces, ” and creates a NoMSN Technorati tag for the boycott movement. Kaihong posts a screenshot on Flickr showing results similar to what I found: the blog's title is filtered, but he was able to post sensitive words in the body of the...

Friday Global Blog Roundup

The Middle East Regime Change Iran has a story about the difficulties that US-based Iranians have in voting. Mr. Behi has running coverage of election day. Highlights: “This [extension of voting hours] is always happens regardless the number of voters so make it look big.” Hoder can’t believe that the...

Ethical leadership

  17 June 2005

Rebecca MacKinnon writes impassionedly about Robert Scoble's defence of his company Microsoft's collusion with the Chinese government to filter politically sensitive words out of the Chinese version of MSN Spaces:

In justifying Microsoft's filtering of politically sensitive Chinese words on MSN spaces, Microsoft's uber-blogger Robert Scoble writes:
"I have ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS forcing the Chinese into a position they don't believe in."
He continues:
"I've been to China (as an employee of Winnov about seven years ago). I met with Government officials there. I met with students. I met with professors. They explained their anti-free-speech stance to me and I understand it. I don't agree with it, and I will be happy to explain to anyone the benefits of giving your citizens the right to speak freely, but it's not my place to make their laws. It certainly is not my right to force their hand with business power."
I lived in China for nine years straight as a journalist, and if you add up other times I've lived there it comes to nearly 12. I don't know what students and professors Scoble met with, and what context he met them in. But to state that Chinese students and professors have an "anti-free-speech stance" is the biggest pile of horseshit about China I've come across in quite some time. And believe me, there are a great many such piles out there these days.
In my experience, most Chinese, like all other human beings I've ever met, would very much like to have freedom of speech. This goes for students, professors, workers, farmers, retirees, religious practitioners, and even many government officials. Many said so to me in on-the-record interviews. Many more told me so privately, in trusted confidence over beers (or something stronger) among friends. 
What they don't want is to lose their jobs and educational opportunities by pushing too hard at the restrictions their government has placed on their ability to speak. They work within the bounds of the possible, and since people in China can say a lot more now than they were allowed to say 20 years ago, most take the long-term view.
It's very true, most Chinese hate it when foreigners lecture them about how they should change. They hate being patronized. Many view the common American attitude of "we're here to save you and make you free" as condescending and hypocritical. They'd rather continue living under their extremely imperfect political situation in hopes that eventually it will change, and that this change will be accomplished by Chinese people in a Chinese way. Only then will they have ownership both of the change and of the result. Otherwise, the change will be considered foreign-imposed, and the Chinese violently detest foreign-imposed anything. Even ones who privately and quietly detest their government. I agree with Scoble: no outsiders, including Microsoft, can force China to change. But nobody's asking Microsoft to force China to do anything. The issue is whether Microsoft should be collaborating with the Chinese regime as it builds an increasingly sophisticated system of Internet censorship and control. (See this ONI report for lots of details on that system.)  Declining to collaborate with this system is not "forcing the Chinese into a position they don't believe in."  Declining to collaborate would be the only way to show that your stated belief in free speech is more than 空: empty words. If you believe that Chinese people deserve the same respect as Americans, then please put your money where your mouth is.
But let's not single out Microsoft for trashing on this point. As this Open Net Initiative report and this 2004 Amnesty International report will make abundantly clear, China's filtering, censorship, and surveillance systems wouldn't be what they are today without lots of help from a number of North American technology companies.  Businessman and author Ethan Gutmann wrote about Cisco's particular contribution in this 2002 article which later became a book chapter.
In the name of free enterprise, Americans so far have acquiesced in U.S. companies' collaboration in the building and reinforcement of the Great Chinese Firewall. The Global Internet Freedom Act is being revived again in congress; but while the Act would allocate money to develop censorship-busting technologies, it makes zero mention of the U.S. companies whose technologies and software services are helping to strengthen this very censorship.
Scoble says it's better to be doing business in China than not, implying that this engagement is better for China and its freedoms in the long run. Don't get me wrong, I believe strongly in economic engagement with China. But nobody said Microsoft shouldn't be doing business there. It's a question of how you do business and in what manner.
I can tell you one more thing about the Chinese. They hear what you say, then they watch how you do business. From there, it's pretty easy to figure out what your real values are.
I couldn't agree more with Rececca's analysis. Microsoft is showing the same kind of failure of ethical leadership here (albeit on a rather larger scale and with potentially more damaging consequences) as coffee bar chains like Starbucks and Costa Coffee do in their refusal to match their Fairtrade posturing with a sales strategy designed to actually give people a straight choice between Fairtrade and "Unfairtrade" options at the counter. In both cases, the companies in question are effectively saying "of course, we're in favour of the ethical outcome (free speech and Fairtrade respectively), but it's not our job to recommend that outcome to our customers (the Chinese government and coffee drinkers respectively). So long as they can make out that they are passive in the un-ethical decision, these companies feel that they have "done enough". Well, that isn't enough for me—I want to deal with companies like Progreso, who have the commitment to an ethical vision to actually work with their customers and partners to seek to transform the status quo for the better. And Microsoft, through Kim Cameron's visionary work on an inclusive and open digital identity meta-network that respects each individual human being's freedom of self-representation, now has an opportunity to transform itself into one such company.

Screenshots of Censorship

  16 June 2005

Some Chinese bloggers have said that they were able to set up Chinese language MSN Spaces blogs using the “forbidden” political words. To clarify the situation I tried to set up my own freedom loving Chinese blog. I went into the MSN Spaces Chinese interface at: http://spaces.msn.com/?mkt=zh-cn, and tried to...

Thursday World Blog Roundup

We’re always looking for new ideas and good stories to write about. If you have a story or a blog post that you think would be a good fit for our daily roundups, email us with the link and a short description of the post! The Middle East Hoder notes...

Skypecast: Freedom Blog Winner Jeff Ooi

  16 June 2005

Over the coming weeks we are hoping to feature Skype interviews or online text chats (depending on what's posible) with the winners of the RSF Freedom Blog Awards. (We may need help from other bloggers talking to the recipients who don't speak English. If you'd like to help, please let...

How To Hack Chinese MSN Spaces to Use Banned Words

  15 June 2005

Thanks to Bennett Haselton of Peacefire.org for the following public service instructions for Chinese users wanting to circumvent the word filters on MSN Spaces China to put e.g. “democracy” in the title of their blogs. If somebody would like to translate these instructions into Chinese, please feel free to do...

Wednesday Global Blog Roundup

We’re always looking for new ideas and good stories to write about. If you have a story or a blog post that you think would be a good fit for our daily roundups, email us with the link and a short blurb about what it’s about! East Asia Doubleleaf has...

Tuesday Global Blogs Roundup

The Middle East Hoder reports that the mood at the headquarters of Iranian presidential candidate Moin is quite upbeat in the wake of recently-released polls. He also asks that his visit not be blogged about in Persian for safety reasons. More fallout from the recent Lebanese parliamentary elections: Beirut Spring...

Monday Global Blogs Roundup

  13 June 2005

We’re always looking for new ideas and good stories to write about. If you have a story or a blog post that you think would be a good fit for our daily roundups, email us with the link and a short blurb about what it’s about! Lebanon The Lebanese blogosphere...

Interview with Patani separatist leader – Dr. Wan Kadir.

  13 June 2005

Dr. Farish Noor, prominent political writer and one of the leading expert in Asian Studies, recently interviewed the leader of BERSATU, a coalition of Muslim separatist organisations based in Southern Thailand that is made up of organisations like the BRN (National Revolutionary Front), PULO (Patani United Liberation Organisation), BIPP (Patani...

About our East Asia coverage

Oiwan Lam is the North East Asia editor. Email her story ideas or volunteer to write.

Mong Palatino is the South East Asia editor. Email him story ideas or volunteer to write.

Nevin Thompson is the Japan editor. Email him story ideas or volunteer to write.

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