China Censorship

Friends visited China recently brought back promising news. How vibrant the economy is, how diverse and readily available the cuisines, how modern the society has become. Under comparison, Bay Area seemed depressing. They were even considering working in China now. An unthinkable idea a few years ago.

I haven¡¯t been back for exactly ten years. But I¡¯ve noticed the rapid advance from Chinese bloggers¡¯ writings. The open up of the society, the amazingly full social schedules for people living in the urban area, especially in Metropolis like Beijing and Shanghai.

One starts to believe that China is a brand new place, a freer, more modern society. It has taken a wiser route, unlike its stubborn and old-fashioned communist buddy, North Korean, or Cuba.

Then Zhao Zi Yang died. But we didn¡¯t hear it from any main stream media of China. We heard it on Chinese BBS, spreading like a murmur. Zhao, Zi Yang used to be the Prime Minister of China prior to 1989. Even though he has been under house arrest ever since then. One would think his death will warrant some kind of respect.

An ex-Prime Minister of a country of 12 billion, died a silent death. A hushed death. Hidden under the cover, as if something secret and dirty. Something untouchable. It reminded me of the documentary image from the banned Chinese Documentary He-Shang (The death of a river), where Liu Shao Qi, the ex-Chairman of China, died alone in a dark room, under arrest. His hair and beard has grown so long when he died, that he looked like a cave man.

I couldn¡¯t believe history is repeating itself again.

I learned the news from a Chinese BBS I frequent on a daily basis: paowang.com. Immediately someone warned the owner of the post, please be careful, we don¡¯t want to get paowang in trouble. A year ago, paowang¡¯s admin was warned by China government that its BBS has shown counter-revolutionary content. We were all prepared for the worst, thinking there won¡¯t be paowant.com anymore. But after the admin cleaned up the BBS, nothing happened. We were relieved. Thinking it is, afterall, twenty-first century. China is no longer as barbarous, as, for example, North Korean.

Coming Tuesday January 18th, 2005. paowang.com disappeared.

I found out yesterday that the hosting company of paowang.com (located in Fu Jian province in southern China) has been told that paowang.com is now banned. The hosting company itself is now under investigation of some sort. We are speculating what exactly happened, did police just barged into the data center, showed their badge and just picked up the paowang server and left?

Shudders.

3 thoughts on “China Censorship

  1. Sigh, can’t anybody see that this whole firewalling / shutting server off does not work in the modern world? People will find ways to speak their thoughts no matter what, not to mention that it agitates thousands of other users who’s not personally interested in talking about politics. This has already happenned last year when ytht bbs was shut down due to political discussions.

    To be fair, I do not think censorship is a speciality for the chinese government, the american government is just as keen on media manipulation, only that their intervention is much more skillfully done, and the “grassroot media” is generally tolerated, and that has certainly been appreciated by the people in general.

    Jean’s Reply:
    dotann, you are right. As i was writing this piece, there was a little voice sitting in the back of my mind, constantly reminding me: “The McCarthy Era”, “The McCarthy Era”. One aspect of Chinese governement behavior is to remind everyone what government is capable of.
    Yes, the US’s main stream media is worthless. But at least, so far, I don’t have to worry about FBI shows up at NPR or the New York Times and started confisicating documents, arresting people, etc. Maybe that was how it was like in the McCarthy Era? 🙁
    Good point that censorship encouraged more participation! Didn’t think of that. 🙂 Forbidden fruits are always more tasty. Hope all those in power would realize this and become more skillful, so to spare us of all these rantings… :p
  2. I agree with dotann. Seen hundreds (really, hundreds!) of articles on how the Chinese government is censoring Zhao-related news this week, and I have that “deja vu all over again” feeling.

    But then I think about the situation in the US. Hmm, not really a whole lot better.

    Maybe only in an ideal world, freedom of speech will TRULY exist.

    Jean’s Reply:
    Makes me want to go back to the question of bee and trains. Infinity is, well, infinity. The distance between speed of light and infinity is, well, infinity. BUT, if i’m at the speed of a turtle, i will still look up at the speed of light with admiration, and thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if i could go half the speed of light? hmmm… i think that would be cool.
    I don’t really care if there are a hundred of articles talking about Zhao Zi Yang’s passing in China. I just want one. Just like right now, i didn’t read the hundreds of article about the censoring because i don’t usually look at US main stream media. I have NPR. I don’t care if there is only one program called counter-spin, one program called left, right, and center. As long as this one program exists, that is enough for me. I don’t think US is the ideal world, that’s why there are thousands of protesters outside of white house yesterday. I’m happy there are people who is working to better the US media, and there are news outlets to tell me that US main stream media sucks.
    Maybe the distance between better and the best is infinity, but i still prefer better to good, or bad to worse. :p

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