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China Update: more on blog registration and censorship

Microsoft has launched a Chinese-language version of it's Spaces blog hosting service, and guess what? Users are banned from using the word “democracy” and other politically sensitive words to label their blogs – although it does appear possible to use those words within blog posts, for now. (As noted in my interview with Isaac Mao, people who set up blogs under this service don't have to register with the authorities because MSN is already obliging the government by policing their content.) But then, MSN is already in the censorship game even in the U.S., as Boing Boing discovered soon after the service's launch.

BBC commentator Bill Thompson argues that efforts by people in the West to fight censorship in places like China are often misguided and counterproductive. I'd be interested to know Chinese bloggers’ reaction to that. He also got one thing wrong. He writes: “Now anyone in China who wants to blog has until 30 June to register or face criminal sanctions.” Actually, as we clarified with Isaac who invests in blog-hosting services, people who set up blogs within BlogChina or Blogbus or the Chinese version of MSN Spaces don't have to register. Just people who set up blogs on their own independent server. I hope the MSM will pick up on this distinction eventually. So far none of them have, because few of the journalists writing the articles on this story actually understand the technicalities of blogging.

Chinadigitaltimes points to an excellent article by Robert Marquand in the Christian Science Monitor: China cracks down on Web and expats. He ties in the new requirement that bloggers and website owners must register with their own names to other developments: tightening of government controls over the Chinese mainstream media, and the geopolitical context in which other countries are feeling challenged by China's rise.

CHINESE LANGUAGE BLOGS:

Doubleaf (who has successfully registered his WordPress blog) responds to the adopt-a-blog efforts (led by Chinese working together from inside and outside China): “My blog doesn't need to be adopted by other people” (我的blog不需要别人收养). He writes that even if his mouth were forced shut, he would not want to depend on the charity of strangers. A very interesting discussion ensues in the comments section.

The author of 24hour.blogbus.com reckons he has 238,000 words to write this year based on his current rate of writing. The blogger's spirit, he believes, is: “write till you die and don't be afraid of writing.” (Based on Isaac's explanation, he doesn't need to register because he's using the Blogbus service, which is required to police his blog along with all the others it hosts). 24 hour is best known for its eye-witness coverage of a murder last year.

Dingyong (who appears to be blogging on Blogger.com but actually isn't) compares the proposed use of fingerprinting for I.D. cards in Taiwan – which has created an uproar – with mainland China's website-registration regulations. At issue, he believes, is when citizens relinquish basic civil liberties to their government in exchange for an alleged enhancement in public security and safety. Where do you draw the line and who draws it? His post reminds us that this is an issue for societies with democratically elected governments as well as authoritarian countries.

Keso's blog, “Playin with IT” weighs in on the debate about whether China should create its own internet. He doesn't agree with that approach. While the “roots of the internet” are inherently un-Chinese, he believes that shouldn't stop Chinese people from adopting it, internalizing it, then eventually creating something new that is Chinese, and which others will want to adopt and emulate. 愿意学习就是好事,从被别人影响,到影响别人,从向别人学习,到成为别人学习的对象,这是个漫长的过程。

…which leads us to kzeng's discussion of the Chinese-ification of Drupal… at which point we're getting really geeky… :-)

10 comments

  • Todd

    Does anyone know if people in China have in fact got in troubles becasue they haven’t followed the government’s censorship?

  • I wonder about Chinese Christians…do they blog? I’m sure they have an even more dangerous time blogging than non-Christians. But, of course, if you are against communism, you’re are going to have a dangerous job. I’d love to “adopt” as Chinese Christian blog.

    I like the spirit Doubleaf…that’s showing true courage. But he needs to appreciate help…we’ve got to work together to get things accomplished.

  • to Agent Tim :I do appreciate the help in my blog, but maybe you don’t know Chinese. But the way , there are some Chinese Christian bloggers, here is an example: http://jidian.blogbus.com

  • to Todd: As far as I know, some blogs are shut off for not registering in miibeian.gov.cn.
    But as long as you submit your site and fill out the form , it will reopen soon.

  • china internet update

    Rebecca McKinnion continues coverage of China’s registration drive for independent websites at Global Voices. Also included, a little clarity on Microsoft’s banning of freedom and democracy.:Microsoft has launched a Chinese-language version of it’s…

  • Tim Wu

    Great post. You understand this stuff better than anyone else in the universe

  • Agent Tim:
    I know a girl who is member of the communist party and also member of some christian circle. The antagonism you are assuming isn’t that harsh in ordanary life.

  • Doubleaf: Great! I must have misunderstood somewhat.

    Shulan: Very interesting. Not being from China, I am suprised at hearing that. But of course, that is one girl. I know a Chinese lady, who is a Christian, visiting here in the US. Perhaps I can ask her more about this.

    Thanks for the link, I will check it out!

  • Chinese Democracy

    Sales pitch to China:
    Hey, have some Capitalism – yeah it’s good stuff, Free Market it up baby, yeah, you can be our most-favored trading partner, alright? How’s that sound? Great, terrific, maybe we can buy a few of your companies as…

  • This is not true Christians in China are free, at least in China, the law gives them the freedom to disseminate teachings.

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