The issue of the internet and China is – naturally! – a hot topic in the blogosphere. Bob has been hoping to tackle this for some time, and so was pleased to see the IOC raise the issue this week (via BBC):
“Inspectors from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said China was obliged under its Games contract to provide journalists with web access.
The IOC’s Kevan Gosper said there was concern that the web had been blocked during recent unrest in Tibet. He said this could not happen during the Games.
IOC inspectors are on a final visit to Beijing before the August Games begin.”
The Great Firewall
The Chinese government have a very effective system of blocking websites, censoring content and enforcing self-censorship by internet companies. These methods allow the CCP to effectively road-block the information superhighway. This is the Great Firewall.
Many sites that have had long-term blocks (Wikipedia has a list) include the BBC (any URL with BBC.news), Wikipedia (Chinese version) and almost any human rights sites you care to mention (in fact an editor at the New Internationalist, an outspoken publication campaigning on issues including human rights, once confessed to Bob that they were a little offended not to be blocked in the PRC).
Meanwhile internet firms (read: Google or Yahoo) desperate for a slice of the huge (and rapidly growing) have been only too happy to self-censor, or even provide sensitive personal information to the Chinese authorities, in exchange for access to trade in China. The high-profile case where Yahoo helped put Shi Tao in prison for 10 years by revealing his private emails to the CCP (and then lying about it) is well covered by Andrew Li – this is his special subject, so read up more about the GFW here too.
The IOC hope that the Olympics will herald change in China, but surely taking on the Great Firewall is too much?
There have been reports this year of previously blocked sites being opened up, including; the BBC News, blogspot, and Wikipedia. However access seems to fluctuate, and since the recent protests in/about Tibet sites like youtube have been offline or highly regulated.
The IOC’s stance is backed up by their commitment to allow athletes to blog, for the first time, about the Olympics. As Imagethief points out: “That’ll be a lot of blogs to police, and one person’s “personal opinion or reflection” is another’s political agitprop”.
Will the Great Firewall stand up to this pressure, or will it soon be an historic relic, like it’s name sake?