China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 36 | Freedom House

China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 36

A weekly update of press freedom and censorship news related to the People's Republic of China

Issue No. 36: October 13, 2011

HIGHLIGHTS
* State-run papers tread lightly on 1911 revolution anniversary
* Monthly news magazine purges editorial staff
* Xinhua downplays coverage of Nobel Peace Prize
* In leaked video, businessman recounts details of police torture
* Freedom House blog examines state recruitment of web commentators

Printable version

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BROADCAST / PRINT MEDIA NEWS

State-run papers tread lightly on 1911 revolution anniversary

Many Chinese state-run newspapers published front-page articles to celebrate the centennial of the Xinhai Revolution on October 10. However, given that the revolution, which overthrew the Qing dynasty in favor of a republic, was essentially an antiauthoritarian movement calling for freedom and democracy, these reports have had to strike a careful balance, generally following official lines provided by the state-run Xinhua news agency. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece People's Daily published a group photograph of members of the Politburo Standing Committee, along with former leader Jiang Zemin, in an apparent effort to dispel rumors of his death that had emerged after he failed to attend celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the CCP in July (see CMB No. 28). The full text of President Hu Jintao's speech was also published. An identical layout and image appeared on the front pages of various CCP-run papers, including the People's Daily, the Liberation Army Daily, and the Economic Daily. However, the Guangzhou-based Southern Daily and Southern Metropolis Daily, which are seen as more liberal despite being state owned, featured a photo of Hu and Jiang shaking hands, similar to an image used by foreign media. David Bandurski of Hong Kong University's China Media Project commented that the placement of the photo under a headline that quoted Hu's call for "increasing a national spirit of sticking together through thick and thin"-ostensibly in the context of reunification with Taiwan-may have been a subtle attempt to "slip in a bit of commentary about reaching across divides within the Party." Hu and Jiang are known as the leaders of two different factions within the CCP, and rivalry between them may intensify in advance of a leadership change scheduled for 2012. Meanwhile, activists in Beijing and in Wuhan, where the Xinhai Revolution started, complained of police visits and restrictions on their movement in the period surrounding the anniversary.

* China Media Project 10/10/2011: The 1911 revolution on today's front pages <http://cmp.hku.hk/2011/10/10/16138>
* Radio Free Asia 10/10/2011: Tight security on 'sensitive' day <http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/qing-10102011154804.html>

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Monthly news magazine purges editorial staff

The Changcheng News Digest, a monthly news magazine that publishes in China but is based in Hong Kong, reportedly dismissed its editorial team on September 28. According to the German news service Deutsche Welle, the magazine had often produced articles that were critical of the Chinese government. These included an investigative report on China's population-control policy, for which it received a warning from an unnamed "high-level official." The purge comes on the heels of other cases in which respected Chinese publications, apparently under pressure from the authorities, have reined in staff responsible for bold reporting. One recent incident of this kind was the July 2011 shutdown of a prominent investigative reporting team at the China Economic Times (see CMB No. 30).

* Radio Free Asia 10/3/2011 (in Chinese): China restricts press freedom, Changcheng News Digest censored <http://www.rfa.org/mandarin/yataibaodao/x-10032011155354.html>
* Deutsche Welle 9/30/2011 (in Chinese): Newsmagazine Changcheng News Digest's editorial team censored <http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15427920,00.html>

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Xinhua downplays coverage of Nobel Peace Prize

After the Nobel Committee announced the winners of this year's Peace Prize on October 7, state-run Xinhua news agency provided only a one-sentence biography for each of the three laureates-Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, and Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman-though related issues involving Johnson Sirleaf's reelection bid were mentioned. Xinhua also included links to background articles on past winners of other Nobel prizes, but there was no reference to the 2010 Peace Prize laureate, jailed Chinese democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo (see CMB No. 35). China Media Bulletin editors conducted a search for the term "Nobel Peace Prize" on the search engines Google.hk (uncensored) and Baidu.com (censored). Of the top 20 results on Google.hk, 11 related to this year's prize, 3 to last year's, and the remainder were general descriptions on sites like Wikipedia. By contrast, Baidu returned only 5 results about this year's prize, and 2 from last year that focused on criticizing the Nobel Peace Prize rather than on Liu Xiaobo's achievements; the majority of leading results ranged from 2003 to 2009, including 3 of the top 5. The findings seem to reflect the Chinese authorities' increased hostility toward the prize in recent years. An initial shift in attitude came in 2008, when activists Hu Jia and Gao Zhisheng were rumored as possible laureates, followed by a more decisive turn in 2010, when the award went to Liu.

* China Digital Times 10/8/2011: Xinhua's muted reaction to Nobel Peace Prize <http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2011/10/xinhuas-muted-reaction-to-nobel-peace-prize>
* Xinhua 10/7/2011: 2011 Nobel Peace Prize shared by Liberian, Yemeni women <http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-10/07/c_131177936.htm>
* Xinhua 10/8/2011: There women won Nobel Peace Prize <http://news.xinhuanet.com/2011-10/08/c_122127953.htm>
* Freedom House: CMB special feature: Cyberdisappearance in Action <//www.freedomhouse.org/cmb/071411_special_feature.pdf>

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NEW MEDIA / TECHNOLOGY NEWS

Google mobile-phone applications blocked in China

Multiple tests have reportedly shown that U.S.-based technology giant Google's "Android Market," where users of mobile telephones equipped with the company's Android operating system can obtain applications, has been blocked in China since early October. Access to some core Android apps, including one for Google's "Gmail" e-mail service, has also reportedly been blocked. Many domestic Chinese app vendors offer alternatives, though some are known for their propagation of malicious software. Google has not issued an official statement on the blocking, which is consistent with an apparent CCP strategy of obstructing Chinese users' access to international communications platforms and pushing them to use Chinese alternatives that are more compliant with censorship demands. The social-networking site Facebook and the microblogging service Twitter, both based in the United States, have long been blocked in China. The blocking of the international app store might also be seen as an unfair commercial boost for China's homegrown start-ups.

* Tech Rice 10/9/2011: Android market is currently blocked in China. Here are your alternatives <http://techrice.com/2011/10/09/android-market-is-currently-blocked-in-china-here-are-your-alternatives>
* High-Tech News Portal 10/11/2011: Android market & Gmail app banned in China [Google services censored by the Great Firewall of China…again] <http://nexus404.com/Blog/2011/10/11/android-market-gmail-app-banned-in-china-google-services-censored-by-the-great-firewall-of-china%E2%80%A6again>

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'Red hacker' group reborn as cybersecurity research collective

Honker Union, a Chinese hacking group that became known for carrying out nationalistic cyberattacks on foreign websites several years ago, has reemerged, now presenting itself as a cybersecurity research and career-training community. The name "Honker" is an adaptation of the Chinese term "hong ke," or "red hacker." The group took part in defacing U.S. government websites in 2001, when the midair collision of Chinese and American military planes near Hainan Island caused outrage in China. It also altered Japanese and Taiwanese websites to display Chinese flags and "patriotic" slogans. Founder Lin Yong says the group had up to 60,000 users and 20,000 subscribers to its mailing list at the time of those attacks, and claims it was never affiliated with the Chinese government. The Chinese authorities periodically urged the group to refrain from its hacking activities, but the perpetrators were never punished, highlighting the impunity in China for such attacks, even when carried out by individuals not directly tied to the government. In explaining Honker Union's new format, Lin cited his conversion to Buddhism and China's growing strength, which made cyberattacks "unnecessary." The revised website will focus on helping hackers to find legitimate jobs and turn security-related research into business plans. Lin took part in reviewing an online appeal called the "Chinese Hackers' Self-Discipline Convention" in September. The document vaguely states that cybercrimes such as denial-of-service attacks are not legitimate if they are for profit or "not in the public interest." But it does not rule out attacks, including on foreign sites, if they are deemed to be in the "public interest."

* Wall Street Journal 10/5/2011: Patriotic Chinese hacking group reboots <http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2011/10/05/patriotic-chinese-hacking-group-reboots>

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Chinese netizens mourn Apple founder Steve Jobs

The October 5 death of Steve Jobs, a founder of the California-based technology giant Apple, has sparked enormous discussion and tributes among Chinese netizens. State-run Xinhua news agency reported that the news was ranked the most popular topic of the day on the Chinese microblog platform Sina Weibo, with more than 63 million posts in the hours after the company made the announcement. Illustrating the closeness some Chinese netizens felt to Jobs, one user identified as Buting Zheteng commented, "This is the first time a foreigner's death has been hard for me to take." Sina itself has set up a website dedicated to Jobs, featuring posts written by popular bloggers and well-known media executives in China. Among them was Lee Kai-fu, former head of China operations for U.S.-based technology firm Google, who posted a photograph of a rainbow taken near the Apple headquarters in California, suggesting that the rainbow had appeared just for Jobs. The Qatar-based news service Al-Jazeera reported that fans have set up an impromptu shrine outside the Apple store in Beijing, but some passers-by apparently were not familiar with him, which served as a reminder that not everyone can afford Apple products.

* China Digital Times 10/6/2011: Steve Jobs dies; Chinese reactions <http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2011/10/steve-jobs-dies-chinese-reactions>
* Sina Tech: Apple founder Jobs' death <http://tech.sina.com.cn/z/stevejobsdie/index.shtml>

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Government reportedly preparing new microblog restrictions

Internet experts, scholars, and microblog owners are reportedly expecting the Chinese government to introduce a series of measures aimed at tightening control over microblogs (see CMB No. 34). The steps are ostensibly meant to curb the spread of rumors, but in practice they will likely target the medium's role as an important arena for anonymous dissent and a means of quickly disseminating uncensored information. According to the South China Morning Post, the new measures will include real-name registration, a licensing system for microblogging sites, and special controls for bloggers with more than 50,000 or 100,000 followers. According to some insiders, the Chinese government is still testing the waters, but the new policies are to be made public by the end of the year. One expert cited in the article anticipated that Beijing's municipal government might begin requiring real-name registration for microblogs soon. A handful of concerned microblog operators reportedly held a meeting in Guangzhou in September to deliberate on how to react to tighter control, which could prompt a drop in usage and revenue. Any restrictions would affect a significant percentage of Chinese internet users, as over 200 million of the country's reported 500 million users have microblog accounts.

* South China Morning Post 10/7/2011: Net tightens on online rumours <http://www.scmp.com/portal/site/SCMP/menuitem.2af62ecb329d3d7733492d9253a0a0a0/?vgnextoid=a79b6ef0a1ad2310VgnVCM100000360a0a0aRCRD&ss=China&s=News>
* China Internet Watch 8/18/2011: Sina reports 200 million Weibo users <http://www.chinainternetwatch.com/1237/sina-weibo-200m-users>

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In leaked video, businessman recounts details of police torture

In a video smuggled out of a Chinese detention center last month and posted online on October 10, a Chinese businessman claims to have experienced torture in police custody. The video, compiled and posted online by the alleged victim's lawyer, has circulated online and drawn outraged responses from Chinese netizens. The businessman is a Henan-based car dealer, Yang Jinde, who is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year prison term handed down by the Wolong district court on July 30. He was detained after he and his employees traveled to Beijing to petition higher authorities over an 80,000 yuan ($12,500) fine, which the Wolong court had imposed in September 2010 amid a dispute with the business's landlord. In the video, Yang appears lying on the ground with a bandaged eye and bruised feet, reportedly unable to walk because of severe beatings. He tells his lawyer, who is filming, that he was tortured to try to extract a confession to six crimes that he did not commit, including leading an illegal gang, provoking quarrels, and disturbing public order. He said he had refused to confess. According to his testimony, he and his employees were also put in cages with police dogs. The video has caught the attention of several prominent Chinese lawyers, including Zhu Mingyong, who demanded an investigation. However, some netizens were skeptical of the recording's veracity. Popular Anhui-based blogger Zhou Peng An urged police to investigate the case in order to improve their image and show that they are not really so brutal and inhumane. Torture is widespread in Chinese detention facilities, as coerced confessions are routinely admitted as evidence in criminal proceedings, and physical abuse is used to punish or extract renunciations from political and religious prisoners.

* South China Morning Post 10/11/2011: Businessman's torture video accuses police <http://www.scmp.com/portal/site/SCMP/menuitem.2af62ecb329d3d7733492d9253a0a0a0/?vgnextoid=95a71ee9f3ee2310VgnVCM100000360a0a0aRCRD&ss=China&s=News>
* YouTube 10/11/2011: Yang Jinde recounts interrogation details <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKbOZPooKMw>
* Zhou Peng An's blog 10/11/2011 (in Chinese): Can the police be this evil? Verify the rumor! <http://blog.people.com.cn/open/articleFine.do?articleId=1318311075193>
* Xin Kuai Bao 10/10/2011 (in Chinese): Business owner tortured to admit crimes <http://epaper.xkb.com.cn/view.php?id=730974>

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HONG KONG

Chinese dissident denied entry into Hong Kong

On October 5, Yang Jianli, a prominent U.S.-based Chinese dissident, was barred from entering Hong Kong to attend an academic event hosted by the City University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Citizens Party to commemorate the 1911 Xinhai Revolution, which overthrew China's Qing dynasty. Yang, a participant in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest movement who earned two doctoral degrees in the United States, was blacklisted in China for his prodemocracy activities. After sneaking into the country on a friend's passport to observe protests in northeastern China in 2002, he was detained by authorities and remained in prison until 2007. Since returning to the United States, he has been denied entry into Hong Kong on different occasions in 2008 and 2009. Yang's latest denial of entry is one of many recent cases in which the Hong Kong government barred individuals who were deemed sensitive by Beijing. The Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch called on UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon and UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay to investigate Yang's case and China's possible violation of international law in barring a national from returning to his home country. Freedom House also issued an alert condemning the Hong Kong government's nontransparent decision and Beijing's disrespect for Hong Kong's autonomy, which is guaranteed as part of the "one country, two systems" arrangement.

* Freedom Alert 10/10/2011: Chinese dissident denied entry into Hong Kong <//www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=581&alert=140>
* Agence France-Presse 10/8/2011: US-based Chinese dissident barred from Hong Kong <http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jeT1iM45EW3eaxQ4lFFkB520KFrA?docId=CNG.2a861b3c15af9949dc28415ae6e0d331.211>
* Canada Free Press 10/8/2011: Rights group urges UN chief to investigate China after top dissident Yang Jianli deported to Taiwan <http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/41107>

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TIBET

Police removal of pro-Tibet images sparks protests

A group of 200 Tibetans held a peaceful protest in Sichuan Province's Ganzi County on October 1, resisting police efforts to intervene. The protests were triggered when the police forcibly removed a large Tibetan flag and an image of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, that had been hung from a four-storey building. "They called for the return of Dalai Lama to Tibet and complained that the Tibetans don't have freedom and demanded freedom," according to Serthar Tsultrim Woeser, a native of the region and a member of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile in India. The India-based Tibetan Express said copies of pamphlets with images of the Dalai Lama were distributed during the protests, but no arrests were reported. The incident came amid an unprecedented series of self-immolations in recent months. A total of five Tibetan monks have set fire to themselves this year to protest against human rights abuses committed by the Chinese authorities, particularly in connection with an increased military presence and the detention of 300 monks at Kirti monastery.

* Radio Free Asia 10/2/2011: Tibetan flag removal triggers protests <http://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/protests-10022011004611.html>
* BBC News 10/4/2011: Self-immolation 'trend' at restive Tibetan monastery <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-15169007>

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Dalai Lama joins Tutu birthday celebration via Google+

At the beginning of October, the Dalai Lama was forced to cancel a trip to South Africa to attend the 80th birthday celebration of retired archbishop Desmond Tutu, as his entry visa was not approved in time. Observers speculated that diplomatic and trade contacts between China and South Africa played a part in the incident (see CMB No. 35). Nevertheless, thanks to the internet and the social-networking platform Google+, the gap between the two Nobel Peace Prize laureates was bridged. On October 8, the exiled Tibetan leader spoke with Tutu from Dharamsala, India, via a video link and Google+ Hangout. In the video chat, the Dalai Lama openly criticized Chinese censorship as "immoral," urging the government to respect Chinese citizens' right to information. The Dalai Lama joked that he was looking forward to Tutu's 90th birthday, when he would test the South African government again on whether it would give him a visa. The Dalai Lama also has accounts on the microblogging platform Twitter and the social-networking site Facebook.

* Politics and Computers 10/8/2011: Dalai Lama joins Google+ and announces his first Hangout <https://100gf.wordpress.com/2011/10/08/dalai-lama-joins-google-and-announces-his-first-hangout>
* Censorship in America 10/8/2011: Dalai Lama criticizes 'immoral' Chinese censorship <http://censorshipinamerica.com/2011/10/08/dalai-lama-criticizes-immoral-chinese-censorship>
* Google+: The Dalai Lama <https://plus.google.com/u/2/108551811075711499995/posts/NEQgS3dCUXc#108551811075711499995/posts/NEQgS3dCUXc>

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BEYOND CHINA

U.S. security concerns bar Huawei from first-responder network project

U.S. Commerce Department spokesman Kevin Griffis confirmed this week that Huawei, the Chinese telecommunication giant, will be blocked from building emergency wireless infrastructure in the United States. The company had put in a bid in April to construct a wireless network for use by American emergency personnel, such as police and firefighters, at times of crisis. However, various entities within the U.S. government were reportedly concerned that the company's routers, chips, and other products would provide the Chinese authorities with "backdoor" access to sensitive government systems (see, inter alia, CMB No. 17). In response to the announcement, Huawei vice president Bill Plummer called for the U.S. government to provide a more detailed explanation of its "national security concerns," adding that the intervention "could have a chilling effect" on the company's broader U.S. business activities. Huawei is known for its strong ties to the Chinese security establishment, and its founder, Ren Zhengfei, is a former Chinese military officer. It is currently the world's second-largest vendor of telecommunications equipment, after Sweden's Ericsson.

* PC World 10/12/2011: Huawei asks U.S. to explain its exclusion from emergency network project <http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/241735/huawei_asks_us_to_explain_its_exclusion_from_emergency_network_project.html>
* Bloomberg 10/12/2011: Huawei calls for "accountability" as U.S. blocks bid over security concern <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-12/huawei-calls-for-accountability-as-u-s-blocks-bid-over-security-concern.html>
* Daily Beast 10/11/2011: China bid blocked over spy worry <http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/10/11/u-s-blocks-china-telecoms-bid-to-build-wireless-network-over-spying-concerns.html>

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Tencent launches English microblogging platform

China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported on October 11 that popular Chinese web portal Tencent had launched an English-language microblogging site called Tencent Weibo. The company's microblogging manager said the site, which features functions such as online chatting and video uploading, is aimed at increasing the company's global influence. Tencent's instant-messenger service, QQ, boasts more than 700 million active accounts, but the most popular Chinese microblog service is run by its competitor, Sina. That company had announced in June that a Sina Weibo English interface would be available by the end of this year. Chinese internet firms have been attempting to expand overseas even as the services of a number of popular U.S.-based rivals remain blocked inside China (see above, CMB No. 33).

* Agence France-Presse 10/12/2011: China's Tencent launches English microblog website <http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hi3Zciq27Yo_Sop3ky7C-7iWWxcA?docId=CNG.99d0f5b77cb7ee81e6d33adfedf3ba98.571>
* China Daily 6/9/2011: Sina plans English microblog service <http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2011-06/09/content_12667354.htm>
* Tencent: About Tencent <http://www.tencent.com/en-us/at/abouttencent.shtml>

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France's Eutelsat launches telecom satellite from China

The French satellite operator Eutelsat launched its W3C telecommunications satellite from Sichuan Province's Xichang Satellite Launch Center on October 7. The launch was carried out by the state-owned aerospace firm China Great Wall Industry Corporation. It marked the first time China had cooperated on a satellite launching project with a Western company, and stemmed from a bilateral agreement signed by China and France in 2008. The W3C satellite will provide Eutelsat's clients with television, radio, broadband, video, and internet services. Chinese cooperation with Eutelsat has grown in recent years, and includes Eutelsat's broadcasting of state-owned Xinhua news agency's English-language channel, CNC World. A recorded conversation between a Eutelsat representative and an investigator pretending to be a Chinese official, published by Reporters Without Borders in 2010, revealed that China had conditioned negotiation of large contracts with the company on its termination of services to New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV), a station established by Falun Gong practitioners in the United States that broadcasts uncensored news to China, including on human rights issues (see CMB No. 16).

* Xinhua 10/7/2011 (in Chinese): China sent W3C telecom satellite into orbit in space <http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2011-10/07/c_122125080.htm>
* Rapid TV News 10/9/2011: China launches European broadcasting satellite <http://www.rapidtvnews.com/index.php/2011100915927/china-launches-european-broadcasting-satellite.html>
* Reporters Without Borders 7/10/2010: European satellite operator Eutelsat suppresses independent Chinese language TV station NTDTV to satisfy Beijing <http://en.rsf.org/china-european-satellite-operator-10-07-2008,27818>

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NOTABLE ANALYSIS

Freedom House blog examines state recruitment of web commentators

In one of the first posts on Freedom House's new blog, Freedom at Issue, in-house experts explore different models used by the Chinese authorities to deploy progovernment commentators who can monitor and guide public opinion on the internet. The authors note that at least a dozen training workshops for such online commentators have taken place throughout China over the past year. The post identifies two types of state-supported commentators: the "50 Cent Party," or private citizens paid by the government who pretend to be "ordinary" netizens; and government employees from a range of departments who are schooled in the most effective ways to conduct "official PR" online. By inserting pro-CCP views into online conversations, alongside other misinformation tactics, both types of commentator serve to manipulate information within an already heavily censored environment. Extrapolating from earlier estimates and the subsequent growth in Chinese internet penetration, the blog post's authors suggest that the number of "50 Cent Party" members may now have reached 560,000.

* Freedom at Issue 10/11/2011: China's growing army of paid internet commentators <http://blog.freedomhouse.org/weblog/2011/10/chinas-growing-army-of-paid-internet-commentators.html>

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University of Toronto report tracks news transmission into China

The University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs released a detailed report on October 11 that tracks the difficulties of broadcasting news into tightly censored environments, including China. The report, titled Casting a Wider Net: Lessons Learned in Delivering BBC Content on the Censored Internet, draws on a series of real-world attempts to provide access to British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) websites in Iran and China, where they are regularly blocked by authorities. It assesses various avenues for channeling information, including via circumvention tools, specified content delivery networks, and RSS feeds.

* Infowar Monitor 10/11/2011: New major report tracks challenges of a censored internet for global broadcasters <http://www.infowar-monitor.net/2011/10/new-major-report-tracks-challenges-of-a-censored-internet-for-global-broadcasters/>
* Munk School of Global Affairs 10/11/2011: Casting a wider net <http://munkschool.utoronto.ca/downloads/casting.pdf>

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New media tools aiding workers' movement, says report

On October 11, the Hong Kong–based China Labor Bulletin published an in-depth report on the workers' movement in China. Among the main conclusions is that mobile telephones and social-networking tools-especially Tencent's QQ instant-messaging application-have "made it easier for workers to initiate, organize, and sustain protests."

* China Labour Bulletin 10/11/2011: Unity is strength: the workers' movement in China 2009–2011 <http://www.clb.org.hk/en/node/101134>