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China: A confession of an Internet naked runner

What would you do if you were forced to comply to the “real name registration” in order to access the Internet? And if every word that you said online would be monitored by the government? When there is no way for you to protect your privacy, probably you would also decide to go “totally naked” online. Zhang Lifan's “Confession of an Internet naked runner” is written in a sarcastic voice describing the frustration of Chinese netizens. Although he is willing to go naked, his post cannot be published in his own blog. The article is republished at canyu.org and below is my translation.

身為一個有十二年以上網齡的中國網民,我宣佈放棄網路隱私權。這種放棄,只是對既成事實的追認。

As a Chinese netizen with over 12-year online experience, here I declare to give up my online privacy. This is an aftermath recognition of the reality. 

理論上公民是國家的主人,有權保護自己的隱私,也有權知道公僕們幹了些什麼,花了我們多少錢。我心智健全且早已成年,卻一直被當兒童監護。一九九七年上網後,我努力「與時俱進」,設置了各種帳戶、密碼,以保護隱私權;學會了翻牆、上推特,以擴張知情權。但互聯網攻防技術的日新月異,令我逐漸覺悟:我老了,名義上的權利,其實已經無所謂了。 

 

In theory, citizen is the master of the country and should enjoy the rights to protect one's privacy as well as the rights to monitor our government officials regarding their duties and spendings. Instead, as a mature adult, I have been monitored and protected like a child. Since I went online in 1997, I set up different online accounts with different passwords in order to protect my privacy. I learned how to jump over the GFW and access Twitter so that I could know more about the world. However, the technology for getting around censorship is getting more and more sophisticated and I have to admit that I am getting old. I can't take care of the so-called “rights” anymore.

潛水八年之後,我在二○○五年主動選擇了實名上網,很大程度上放棄了自己的隱私權,任何網友(包括政府僱用的職業網民)都有支持、反對、評論、謾罵乃至跨省追殺我的自由。袞袞諸公何時能被感動到效法一下,我肯定佩服得五體投地。忝為實名網民,我一直主張保護網民匿名上網的權利,蓋因事關公民言論自由,但很快發現自己太迂腐了。重金開發的網路監控系統,足以令匿名菜鳥們隱私畢露,虛擬世界中的思考互動、通訊交流、戀愛調情甚至手機黃段,一一無所遁形,並可隨時追蹤到現實世界。網路者,網羅也。所謂匿名,無非是一種自我安慰;而推行上網「實名制」,不過是對自由表達的震懾。建設「大局域網」,用納稅人的錢監控納稅人,無疑是一種「中國特色」。 

In 2005, I gave up my anonymous status and chose to go online with my real name. I have given up my privacy. Concerned netizens (including those hired by the government) had different opinions, some supported, some opposed and launched attack on others’ choices. Although I use my real name, I have been protecting others’ rights in anonymity as it concerns with citizen's rights in free speech. However, I soon discover that I am too old fashioned. The Internet monitoring system can detect private details of anonymous newbies like a piece of cake. All online interaction, communication, love talks or dirty jokes become visible and they can trace every single message back to the original sender. The Internet is a net to catch people. The so-called anonymity is a self-comforting imagination. The main purpose of online “real name registration” is to produce fear among users for their speech and expression. The construction of “Big Brother Net” by using the taxpayers’ money to monitor the taxpayers is an unique Chinese characteristic.

中國的牆文化與翻牆文化 Chinese wall culture and the culture of getting over the wall

我國「牆文化」源遠流長,沒有哪個民族,像中國人那樣熱衷於修築各種高牆和土圍子。從秦始皇修萬里長城到明朝海禁,中國是一個長期將自己與外部世界分隔的國家。別跟我理論張騫通西域與鄭和下西洋,那都是朝廷特派的「揚我國威,宣化四夷」行動,與傳遞聖火及廣立孔子學院異伐同工。當然,中國也是一個有「翻牆文化」傳統的國家,如唐玄奘到西域取經,就得偷越多道關卡;近代馬克思主義在中國傳播,也經歷了一個「翻牆」階段。改革開放了三十年,「柏林牆」倒塌了二十年,中國還在思想的「鬼打牆」中轉墳圈兒。 

Our country has very long tradition of “Wall Culture”. Not a single nationality in this world is as enthusiastic as Chinese people in the construction of walls. Since Qin Shi Huang's Great Wall to Ming Dynasty's Coastal Wall, the country has been keeping itself away from the outside world. Don't lecture me with Zhang Qian's Western Journey or Cheng He's Sea Journey to the West, all these trips were sent by the court to “promote the image of a strong country and educate the barbarians”. Their nature are similar to the Olympic Torch Relay and the Confucian Colleges nowadays. Of course, we also has a tradition in “getting over the wall”, such as The Western Journey by Monk Xuanzang of the Tang Dynasty. He had to get through a number of gates and obstacles in order to accomplish his mission. The spreading of Marxism in Modern China has also gone through a period of “getting over the wall”. The economic reform in China has 30 years of history and the Berlin Wall had been pulled down for 20 years. China is still under the cycle of the damned “Wall”.

如今網路流行「偷菜」與「翻牆」,說明越是禁忌的事,越有快感和刺激,當然也包括流覽情色網站。中國改革開放的偉大成就之一,就是身體的解放。若論快感,網民們逛成人網站過過眼癮,比起嫖妓包二奶和公款冶遊外國紅燈區的官員,不過是小菜一碟;要比刺激,四千貪官穿壁外逃,人均捲走億元,驚悚度超越網民「翻牆」何止萬倍。「食色,性也」,男女各自長了什麼器官,成年地球人都知道。保護未成年人的理由很正大,兒童的好奇心出乎天性,性教育本該從小普及,但各商業流覽器都有專為家長設置的遮罩功能,靡費國庫的巨額帑銀開發「綠壩」,除了政治盤算,經濟上的動機也耐人尋味。 

Terms like “stealing veg” and “over the wall” tell us the fact that taboo always induces pleasure and excitement. The same case happens to getting access to online pornography. One of the greatest deed in our reform is the liberation of our body. While government officials can openly prostitute, buy second wives and use public spendings to visit red night district in foreign countries, netizens’ most humble pleasure is getting access to pornographic websites. The excitement of netizens “getting over the wall” in thrilling slow speed can never be compared with the 4,000 corrupted government officials, each on average had smuggled away 0.1 billion away from the country. “Food and sex are human nature”, the whole world know how man and woman differ. The excuse of “protecting the youth” sounds very legitimated. Children's curiosity come from their nature and sex education should be started from very young age. Every commercial browser have filtering mechanism designed for parent control. The huge public expense on “Green Dam” has political as well as economic considerations.

中國式大局域網「掃黃」,主要依靠防火牆過濾「敏感詞」。我經常被提示「資訊中包含敏感辭彙」而無法上帖,但又不告知什麼詞「敏感」,必須絞盡腦汁反復測試。我曾呼籲各網站公示「敏感辭彙」,以免浪費寶貴的上網時間和網路資源,但無任何回應。兩年多以前,我偶爾從某網站提供的下載軟體工具中,剝離出一份中英文敏感詞列表,頓時忍俊不禁:一千零一十個辭彙中,三分之一弱是「避孕套」「強暴」之類的性辭彙,三分之二強是「民主」「專制」之類的政治辭彙,還有眾多的高官名字,與AV女優、異見人士紛然雜陳。「掃黃」掃得如此低俗,倒像是清道夫患了窺陰癖,這東東豈能見光? 

The Chinese style Big Brother “anti-pronography” campaign depends on the filtering out of “sensitive terms” by the Great Fire Wall. Whenever I post article online, the system keeps reminding me of the existence of “sensitive terms in the message”, but it never tells me which are the “sensitive terms” and you have to keep testing. I have once urged some websites to post in public the list of “sensitive terms” for saving everyone's time, but there isn't any response so far. Two years ago, I sorted out a list of sensitive terms from a software tool, and it really surprised me. Among the 1010 terms, about one third of them is sex related, like “condom” and “rape” and two third of them is political in nature, like “democracy”, “authoritarian”. Many government officials’ names are banned like Adult video girls and dissidents. Since the “anti-pronography” is so vulgar, it is like a street sweeper being addicted to the dark sewage. Such kind of addiction cannot be disclosed.

  
要裸大家裸,要脫大家脫 Be fair, go naked together

近年的網路輿論監督,令貪官隊伍損兵折將人人自危,搶錢與反搶錢、監督與反監督成了社會矛盾焦點。官員財產「實名制」早在一九九五年就提出了,至今仍遭到頑強抵制;網路「實名制」謀劃不過兩三年,已開始在部分地區實施。政策從醞釀到出台,凡是對官有利的推行神速,凡是不利於官的行之惟艱,被網民戲稱為新的「兩個凡是」。醉翁之意不在酒,網路「白名單」和「實名制」背後隱含的動機,不免令人生疑:堵塞輿情孔道,莫非故意轟人上街?限制公民的知情權,難道真要讓社會回歸蒙昧主義?   

In recent years, the Internet public opinion has threatened corrupted government officials. There is a huge tension between robber and crime fighter, monitoring and reaction against monitoring. The “real name registration” for government officials’ property has been brought out since 1995, but still being resisted. While the “real name registration” of internet users was introduced three years ago, it has already been implemented in some regions. Policies that are favorable towards government officials would be implemented in full speed, while those that are against their interests would encounter a lot of difficulties. Many netizens mock the situation as the new “Two Whatevers“. What has occupied the drunk's mind is not the alcohol, the “whitelisting” and “real name registration” of the Internet has very suspicious motive. Dont’ they see that the blocking of public opinion would eventually bring people to the street? And the control over citizen access to information would bring about savagery?

漫畫家曠飆有一幅傳播很廣的作品,畫面上那個脫到只剩褲衩的小百姓,對光鮮外衣下財色並包的官員說:「脫吧,到你了」。透明乃當今時尚,要裸一齊全裸,要脫大家都脫,我的身家公開了,你的財產也該見陽光。窗戶紙一點就破,無論實名匿名,網民都在裸奔,不如裸個痛快。倘若所有人都用實名講真話,倒有望爭取到免於恐懼的自由。 

 

Cartoonist Kuang Biao has a popular drawing: an ordinary citizen stripped off his clothes until he only has his underpants on says to a well-dressed government official that “now it is your turn”. Transparence is now a trend, if we are to go naked, everyone has to strip their clothes off by making public of their income and property. The Internet is like a paper window full of holes now, whether netizens use their real name or stay anonymous, they are running naked. If we all tell the truth in real name, hopefully we can attain our freedom away from fear.

成人不是兒童,女人不是老虎;谷歌不是猛獸,政府不是保姆。透觀皇帝新衣,屁民不穿也罷,若非要廢棄遊戲規則,颳一場重返「一九八四」的《竊聽風暴》,彼此就不必拘禮了。你能開發技術窺我私密,我也有辦法翻牆賞你菊花,索性回歸大自然,按「叢林法則」 裸奔便是。 

Adults are not children and women are not tigers. Google is not a fierce animal and the government is not our nanny. Assitizens (translator note: citizen with no right are called as assitizen in China) do not need the emperor's new clothes. If we are not giving up the game or returning to the Orwell's monitored world of “1984”, let's not follow the netiquette. Now that you have the technology to peep into my privacy, I can also get over the wall to see your chrysanthemum, let's return to the nature and follow the forest rule of naked running.

12 comments

  • Jason

    Great piece, excellent translation

  • Nice find, this is a great piece. Obviously I’m a bit biased, as I agree with the guy on more or less all counts.

    I fear the day that a VPN isn’t enough to get over the GFW…

  • Brett

    I feel bad for that entire country… We don’t have it much better in America though. Europe will always be the most free part of the world due to separation of powers amongst different member states. No matter, all of this is bound to implode… It’s as inevitable as WWII.

    • meow

      You must be kidding. UK leads the world as a surveillance society and EU just announced they will seek even greater power to dictate economic behavior by member states (in the name of “economic crisis”).

      Lets face it: the future is a digital police state, everywhere.

  • Haha real name

    My god I never really thought about how bad this censorship actually is. It is unbelievable that the largest nation in the world doesn’t have the right to free speech. Growing up in America, you almost always take it for granted-I wonder how many Americans realize how special our country is.

    Maybe google leaving will be a wake up call to the citizens and the government. China needs to westernize quickly or it’s gonna get left behind.

  • Sue

    nice work.

    I have a feeling that “菊花” in the last paragraph did not mean “chrysanthemum”. Rather it means anus. If you check Chinese net, you can find this usage is quite common. I think it is also in keeping with the naked theme. :-)

  • […] Now this is dissent we can get behind! A so-called “naked” blogger – that is, a netizen who has disclosed his real identity to the government and agreed to have his online movements monitored – has taken to his own blog to satirize the “Great Firewall,” the Chinese pre-occupation with “walls” in general and the current porn witch hunts. [Global Voices Online] […]

  • sue, you are right. chrysanthemum is to cover up the body part. it is a coded term. and not so many Chinese know about the expression. so i keep it as it is :)

  • […] in March, a netizen Zhan Lifan wrote an article, “A confession of an Internet naked runner” to advocate speaking the truth in real […]

  • […] lasa iny, Zhan Lifan mponina iray amin'ny aterineto  dia nanoratra lahatsoratra iray, “ Fibabohan'ny mpiondana aterineto iray mihanjahanja” ho fiarovana ny filazana ny fahamarinana amin'ny fampiasana ny tena […]

  • […] In spite of such harassment, Chinese netizens have refused to shut up and continue to criticize the government through humor and, even, public streaking. […]

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