WASHINGTON, March 5, 2012—Hundreds of Chinese “netizens,” a term referring to active participants of online communities, flooded U.S. President Barak Obama’s Google+ page with human rights posts recently when the Chinese censorship system malfunctioned, granting them access to previously restricted pages. The Chinese netizens used the opportunity to advocate for the right of free speech.
The Chinese government’s strict censorship hinders citizens from gaining access to social networking sites, including Google+, Twitter, Facebook and others. Chinese netizens say that for the past few days, they have unexpectedly been able to access Google+ for the first time since it launched last year.
Many Chinese writers urged President Obama to liberate the Chinese people from the oppression of their own government. Some commented on the need to free human rights advocates. Others urged Obama to plan a strategy to change Chinese government and promote freedom and civil rights of the Chinese people.
The Chinese government has blocked many of western websites. While the country opened the door to the global market and capitalistic values in economic sectors years ago, the Chinese authorities retain strict rules limiting the civil rights of the Chinese people, including freedom of expression.
In 2009, Beijing shut down internet flow for 48 hours after the Xingjian riot, which resulted in the deaths of 140 people. The cause of the protest is unknown, but some allege that it began as an attempt to urge the government to investigate the rapes of local Han women by migrant workers. The peaceful prostest became a riot when police violently cracked down on the protesters. Reuters reported that the government also blocked a social networking site similar to Twitter in the capital and in the financial hub of Shanghai.
When it was not able to control all the information “seeping out of Xingjiang,” Reuters reported that the government removed comments and pictures of the police crackdown of protesters. Within a few hours of the crackdown, there had been pictures online portraying severe human rights violations by the police.
By the second half of 2009, China censored social network sites, including Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. The authorities created alternative social network sites, like Wiebo.
Last December, authorities took one step further and tightened their control over information flows on websites. The Beijing city government announced a new regulation requiring users of social networking sites to use their real names. The regulation allows the government to identify commenters who criticize the authorities and monitor rising public rage or planned protests against the government.
The authorities also announced a ban on posts revealing state secrets, threatening the national security, inspiring ethnic resentment, or stirring up rallies that could disrupt social order.
Since late 2010, censors began blocking key words such as “freedom” from search terms.
Chinese scholars argue that censorship is imperative to preventing political disturbances among the public in a Communist China. Ideologically speaking, under Communism, the individual’s best interests are identical to those of the society.
In practice, the government promotes the interests of the few who are in power. Many Chinese attempt to flee poverty and political oppression by Chinese authorities. The censored contents of websites in China expose public discontent with the current regime.
Democratic government in China appears to be one step closer. History shows that the process of democration begins when people start to speak up for their own rights and freedom. The Chinese are one step closer to having that dream come true.
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