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China: Great firewall undermined

Categories: East Asia, China, Digital Activism, Freedom of Speech, Governance, Ideas, Technology

The end to China's Cultural Revolution [1] thirty years ago took with it the need to censor one's self in order to survive. While people in China can now speak freely—a right protected in the Chinese constitution [2]—there still exists an unwritten set of rules and standards for when and if an audience is involved.

For the average Chinese netizen, there are two main fronts in the Chinese Communist Party's war on free speech [3]. Up front are search engines, where a query on sensitive keywords might let you get as far as the second page of results—if they appear at all—before browser paralysis sets in and your connection is disabled, often for twenty to thirty minutes at a time.

On the back end are websites and blogs where if the wrong characters don't bring a cease and desist order, software is triggered which quickly renders the offending page unloadable. Removing the sensitive content will sometimes secure the survival of your blog. Often it does not.

You want to post on the relevant political and social issues, but when words act against you, what's a blogger to do?

Podcasts seem to be an answer, at least until voice-monitoring technology catches up—an idea not lost on Democratic China Blog's Neo, whose MSN Spaces blog of the same name [4] was blocked on the mainland not long ago.

First up is a news report [5] [zh] on Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegate Zhang Xianliang [6] and his proposal to build a Cultural Revolution museum [7].

Following that Neo posts a series of four recordings [8] [zh] of Ming Ju-zheng (明居正), Dean of National University of Taiwan's political science department speaking on the Cultural Revolution.

Volume one: In the nearly thirty years since the Cultural Revolution ended, Chinese Communist Party officials have all along evaded discussing it. It's absolutely necessary that we can have a review. This piece attempts to clarify three major problems: Mao Zedong's motives and role in bringing about the Cultural Revolution, why he used such tactics in seizing power, and the Communist Party's role.

Volume two: This volume discusses some of the phenomena seen during the Cultural Revolution such as the struggle against capitalists, cult of personality, and how allowing politics to determine state affairs led to such cruel battles. In particular addresses the Cultural Revolution's absurd nature and examines the devastation done to Chinese society and humanity.

Volume three: This volume looks into Lin Biao [9], the Gang of Four [10] and the Red Guards [11]‘ responsibilities in the Cultural Revolution and puts forward a view different that of Chinese Communist Party.

Volume four: Some political happenings before and after the Cultural Revolution and the negative affect this had on political and social life on the mainland, including: public denouncements and trials, factionalism, financial incentives for exposing the politically incorrect, all of which are discussed at length.

How long will podcasts remain a viable option in subverting internet censorship? Let's hope longer than it takes Cisco [12] to drive to the bank.