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Freedom House Denounces China’s New Internet Restrictions
Freedom House condemns the Chinese government’s latest effort to restrict freedom of expression by blocking websites such as Twitter, Flickr and Hotmail two days before the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. The internet restrictions are among a number of measures authorities have taken in recent weeks—on top of their usual disruption of open internet expression—to quell dissent ahead of June 4.
“Young people in China are already woefully uninformed about the democracy protests in 1989 and the massacre that killed hundreds, if not thousands of peaceful demonstrators,” said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director. “China’s decision to block these sites today represents the latest salvo in a relentless campaign to erase the past.”
Chinese authorities regularly shut down portions of the internet during events deemed politically sensitive, such as the Beijing Olympics and the Communist Party Congresses. Its leaders wield what is the most sophisticated internet surveillance and censorship apparatus in the world, employing an army of web commentators to post pro-government remarks and requiring private internet companies to remove content according to official instructions.
China is ranked Not Free in Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net report for its extensive controls on internet content and activity. These include technical filtering, prepublication censorship, post-publication censorship and proactive manipulation. Topics that threaten the domestic legitimacy of the Communist Party, including the Tiananmen massacre, are the most carefully censored. Internet users who publish such material face harassment, criminal prosecution and imprisonment, with China home to the world’s largest number of people imprisoned for internet activity.
Despite these controls, Chinese cyberspace has grown into a dynamic environment with millions of users. Some political discussions do occur with users making creative use of asterisks, code words, or homophones to replace potentially sensitive keywords. For example, censorship is referred to as "harmonization," and the 1989 massacre in Beijing, which involved the use of tanks, is described as "tractors coming into the city."
“China is blocking sites like Twitter and Flickr because they provide a means for people to circumvent government control and mobilize dissent,” said Windsor. “Clearly, China’s leaders have not been completely successful in extinguishing the desire of ordinary Chinese to have a say in their country’s future.”
China is ranked Not Free in the 2009 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and in the 2009 version of Freedom of the Press.
For more information on China, visit:
Freedom on the Net 2009: China
Freedom in the World 2009: Overview
Freedom in the World 2008: China
Freedom of the Press 2008: China
Mass Media Control in Contemporary China
Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in China since 1972.
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.