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All Quiet on The Chinese Front

The topic of Internet and press censorship in China continued to draw heated debate after the US congressional hearing on this issue last week. Rebecca MacKinnon wrote a comprehensive review of discussions among the English-language blogs on China. She also quoted from two well-known Chinese-language bloggers – Anti and Keso.

These two bloggers shared similar views as expressed by Anti and translated by ESWN:

The freedom and rights of the Chinese people can only be won by the Chinese people themselves. When the US Congress proposes Internet freedom of information legislation, this is truly treating the freedom of the Chinese netizens as maids that they can dress up as they see fit.

(Anti’s old blog was removed by MSN Spaces due to censorship. His new blog on blog-city is not available in China.)

Other than Keso and Anti, the rest of the Chinese bloggers seem pretty quiet on this issue. Searches in Chinese on Sina and Bokee, two major Chinese BSPs, , and MSN Spaces, the only international BSP available in China, yielded the following results:

-“US Congress” And “Freedom” didn’t return any result.
-“US Congress” returned many results, most of which did not mention the congressional hearing last week. Only one blog reposted Anti’s article cited above.
-“Press freedom” returned many results, most of which are on the Reporters Without Borders's 2005 ranking of China as the 159th on the index of press freedom, like this blog.

The Chinese government has suppressed reporting on this US congressional hearing in the mainstream media in China, which must have contributed to the relative silence on this issue in the Chinese-language blogosphere. Meanwhile, there is indication that the Chinese netizens are not as excited by this issue as their foreign counterparts. Mercury News, a US newspaper, included the following interviews in a recent article:

“I can find all that I want,” said Chen Zhao, 24, a Tsinghua University doctoral student. “I seldom find pages I can't open.”

Another student, Wang Jinlin, supported the censorship. “Some things are not good for people to read,” she said.

Some of the search results from “Press Freedom” did discuss the censorship issue head-on. One such blog lamented the sorry state of Beijing News under government crackdown, the event of which was detailed by the English-language blog Danwei. In the comment section, one reader wrote:

[translated] Did you (the blogger) study journalism? I did. From my class not many stayed in the profession after graduation. Now it's more than one year after graduation, the few who are still in journalism are trying their best to get out. I can't speak too much for others, but at least I'm one such deserter. Those who study journalism for their ideals are suffering greatly.

In contrast, the Chinese-language blogosphere is witnessing escalating discussions on The Steamed Bun Lawsuit. The case, explained by ESWN, was filed by the prominent film director of the Farewell My Concubine fame, Chen Kaige, against the author of a 20-minute video clip spoofing Chen's latest martial arts fantasy, The Promise (known in the West as the Master of the Crimson Armor). This topic is prominently featured on Sina’s blog home page .

The fact that a film-industry law suit beat the important topic of media censorship in the Chinese-language blogosphere could be read two ways – that China’s media is depressingly suppressed; or, that Chinese netizens are using this law suit to vent their anger at the establishment. Massage Milk, a well-known Chinese-language blog, said the following about the 20-min video clip, as translated by ESWN:

The emergence of parodies tells something — that people are skeptical of and disgusted with mainstream culture. They have no choice about the things that are forced upon them. The Chinese people are pitiful because they only see just a few Chinese-made movies each year without any choice. They are disgusted with the sham that is mainstream culture but they have no choice. But they don't have the right to speak out, so the consequence of this disgust is to deconstructive methods to “bring down” the manufactured products.

If only we could say the same about people's anger with press freedom in China.

9 comments

  • mirror tong

    I am a Chinese netizen . Frankly speaking, The Steamed Bun Lawsuit is fairly hot . that’s because the Chinese media give so much attention on the case . however , because of the government censorship , few pieces of news about ” dangerous” information can be shown to Chinese .
    consequently , grass roots are treated as fool . we don’t know anything about sensitive news but entertainment .

  • LeTissier

    Well..most of the internet media haven’t covered this news, but I know it has been spreaded to many bbs (which is another important aspect of China’s internet communication; sometimes even more important than blogs).

  • Thanks LeTissier for pointing that out. I’ll do some more research on the BBS then. Mirror Tong is probably right – the government doesn’t allow open discussion of socially important issues, so entertainment/celebrity news seems to dominate the mindshare.

  • […] Many Internet users in China unfazed by government censorship (Mercury News vom 15. Februar 2006, via) […]

  • […] All Quiet on the Chinese Front I’ve started working for Global Voices Online (GVO) as their East Asia editor.  Here’s a piece I wrote for the site today on the reaction from the Chinese-language blogosphere on the issue of media censorship in China.  GVO seeks to amplify, curate and aggregate the global conversation online – with a focus on blogs outside the U.S. and Western Europe.  It’s a cool and worthy service.  Check it out. […]

  • […] El tema de la censura al acceso de Internet en China ha estado en los medios durante los últimos meses. Los bitacoritas han sido afectados por problemas de restricciones en los tópicos aceptables y en las posibilidades de alojamiento para sus bitácoras. Hao Wu es un bitacorista chino afectado por las restricciones a la libertad de información en su país. Pero, su caso es más grave que el simple bloqueo del acceso a su bitácora y tiene más que ver con sus actividades como cineasta. […]

  • PrchrLady

    Hola, Rulemanes…

    Yes, his situation is very grave, but we must keep getting the word out. The english language site on Hao Wu’s predicament is:

    http://ethanzuckerman.com/haowu/

    I encourage everyone to read and do whatever you can to help his cause. I pray for his safe return home.

  • […] (via IFTF) .. to finally recall as well the taken off bloggers like Zhao and more recent events as described by the now imprisoned blogger Tian Yi at Globalvoices. […]

  • Farewell My Concubine

    The panorama of 20th-century Chinese history swirls past two men, celebrated actors with their own decidedly specialized view of things. We first observe their lives as children at the Peking Opera training school, a brutal and demanding arena for…

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