It’s Time To Do Something About China’s Internet Censorship

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Just last week, Beijing further tightened the screws on US companies when it imposed a ban on Apple’s online book and film services. The order came as part of a broader set of regulations, introduced in March, which established strict curbs on all online publishing.

Claude Barfield writes: For the first time this year, the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) “National Trade Estimate Report” took note of China’s Great Firewall. Granted, it was with this tame statement: “China’s filtering of cross-border Internet traffic has posed a significant burden to foreign suppliers.” The report did not indicate what steps, if any, the US plans to take against the People’s Republic of China’s heavy-handed and economically damaging censorship regime. But it is high time for the US, possibly in conjunction with other major trading partners, to test the legality of China’s sweeping Internet censorship system.

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The nature of Chinese censorship

Chinese online censorship operations are not new, and they have been well-documented for over a decade. But the situation has grown worse since President Xi Jinping took office in 2012. Today, the USTR reports that eight of the 25 most trafficked websites worldwide are currently blocked by the Chinese government. Especially targeted are popular search engines such as Google, as well as user-generated content platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Sometimes, the blockade is permanent — Google formally withdrew from China in 2010 — but more often it is intermittent and random, as has occurred with increasing frequency with Gmail and Hotmail. The New York Times has been banned since 2012, and recently (as a result of reporting on the misdeeds of President Xi’s relatives) the Economist and Time magazine have also secured spots on the honored block list. Just last week, Beijing further tightened the screws on US companies when it imposed a ban on Apple’s online book and film services. The order came as part of a broader set of regulations, introduced in March, which established strict curbs on all online publishing.

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In many cases, the filters and blocks carry with them a strong whiff of industrial policy. The now-giant Chinese firm Baidu received a huge boost when Google was forced to withdraw from the Chinese market (Baidu stock shot up 16 percent the day Google announced its withdrawal). Sina’s Weibo and Tencent’s QQ are direct competitors to popular blocked websites such as Twitter and Facebook. Read the rest of this entry »


China: 197 Punished for ‘Online Rumors’

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BEIJING (AP) — People recently punished in China’s campaign against online rumors include those who circulated an inflated death toll in the Tianjin blasts and who alleged a man committed suicide because of the country’s stock market woes, state media reported Monday.

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“Among the rumors circulated were that a ‘man jumped to his death in Beijing due to the stock market slump,’ and that ‘at least 1,300 people were killed in the Tianjin blasts.’ The death toll in the Aug. 12 explosions at warehouses for hazardous chemicals in the port city so far is 150.”

The official Xinhua News Agency said 197 people have been punished in a special campaign, citing the Public Security Ministry, but did not say over what period. Read the rest of this entry »


Half-Naked Foreigners Controlled by Police After Causing Sensation

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While some people joked about the defeat of the mighty Spartans, others took the incident seriously, citing safety issues. They were hired to promote salad by a food store.

A group of half-naked foreigners dressed as Spartan warriors made a mighty debut in Beijing on Wednesday, but soon lost their first battle against the police.

They showed up in some of the busiest areas in east Beijing around the afternoon, including Guomao and Sanlitun, drawing large crowds of admirers taking snaps.

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They were hired to promote salad by a food store, according to Beijing Youth Daily.

However the fun ended when police arrived at the scene. Officers asked them to leave after the half-naked men started to cause “disorder,” according to Beijing Youth Daily. The report said they were forcibly detained after that request was ignored.

There is no information yet on whether those detained have been released or what charges the models might face. But according to a statement released by the food store on Thursday, they have already “cleared the air” with the police.

Photos of the scene soon went viral on Chinese social platforms. While some people joked about the defeat of the mighty Spartans, others took the incident seriously, citing safety issues. Read the rest of this entry »


China Bans Japanese Anime, Manga Comics Including ‘Death Note’, ‘Attack On Titan’

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 reports: China’s ministry of culture on Monday issued a list of 38 Japanese animations and comics that would no longer be allowed in the country, online or in any other form. The anime and Chinese leader Xi Jinpingmanga comics include well-known series such as “Attack on Titan,” “High School of the Dead” and “Death Note.” The printed version of “Attack on Titan” has sold over 30 million issues worldwide.

“Fine artworks should be like sunshine in a blue sky and a breeze in spring that will inspire minds.”

— President Xi Jinping

The ministry reportedly said that 29 major Chinese websites including Sohu, Tencent and Baidu have received warnings and have been fined for showing programs that “encourage juvenile delinquency,glorify violence and include sexual content,” China’s news service Xinhua reported, as cited by the Japan Times.

Ministry of culture official Liu Qiang reportedly told Xinhua that the measures were put in place to “protect the healthy development of youth.”

In March, the ministry had announced that it was targeting several lesser-known shows, including “Blood C,” and that a more comprehensive list of banned programs would be issued shortly.

A much larger list was issued in April, which banned a total of 62 manga comics including the highly popular “Sailor Moon” and “Naruto” series. The ministry said at the time that all manga titles were under review. Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese Netizens Love the New Season of ‘House of Cards’ — Even Though it Makes Their Country Look Terrible

Fair use/Sina Weibo

Fair use/Sina Weibo

David Wertime and Han Chen  report:  “Everyone in China who works on this level pays who they need to pay.” Mild spoiler alert: These are the words of the fictitious Xander Feng, an influential Chinese billionaire on the Netflix series House of Cards, a show that follows the machinations of U.S. Representative (and later Vice President) Frank Underwood to agglomerate power and crush whoever stands in his way. The phrase is also now viral on the Chinese Internet, which has proven surprisingly hospitable to the show’s second season, which debuted on Feb. 14. Despite having its arguably Sinophobic moments — in addition to Feng-as-villain, the show depicts a Stateside Chinese businessman hiring both male and female sex workers, and a U.S. casino laundering Chinese money to fund a Congressional SuperPAC — the show has Chinese social media users applauding what they believe is a largely accurate depiction of Chinese palace politics.

The attraction of House of Cards’ second season — which has already received over 9 million views in the first weekend compared to over 24 million for the first season, released March 2013 in China — appears two-fold. First and foremost, the show engages Communist Party corruption, elite infighting, and the often-outsized influence of the moneyed class with a directness that few domestic shows dare hazard. The colorul Feng, for example, alludes to scheming with members of the Chinese government to force a more liberal financial policy, not to mention bribing high officials outright. The result is a portrait of Chinese elite skullduggery convincing enough that one user wondered aloud in jest whether the show’s screenwriters had planted an undercover agent in party ranks.

Read the rest of this entry »