Not Free
A Obstacles to Access 8 25
B Limits on Content 2 35
C Violations of User Rights 0 40
Last Year's Score & Status
12 100 Not Free
Scores are based on a scale of 0 (least free) to 100 (most free). See the research methodology and report acknowledgements.

header1 Overview

Conditions for internet users in China continued to deteriorate, confirming the country’s status as the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom for the fourth consecutive year. The level of internet freedom in China also reached its lowest point since the inception of the Freedom on the Net report a decade ago. Censorship and surveillance were pushed to unprecedented extremes as the government enhanced its information controls, including in the lead-up to the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and in response to persistent antigovernment protests in Hong Kong. The growing crackdown affected tens of millions of internet and mobile phone users, resulting in heightened self-censorship and a reduction in space for online mobilization. Chinese citizens’ risk of being detained or imprisoned for accessing or sharing information online has increased considerably over the past several years. Rapid advances in surveillance technology and greater police access to user data have helped facilitate the rise in arrests and prosecutions.

China’s authoritarian regime has become increasingly repressive in recent years. The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is tightening its control over the state bureaucracy, the media, religious groups, universities, businesses, and civil society associations, and it has undermined its own already modest rule-of-law reforms. The CCP leader and state president, Xi Jinping, has consolidated personal power to a degree not seen in China for decades, but his actions have also triggered rising discontent among elites within and outside the party. The country’s budding human rights movements continue to seek avenues for protecting basic rights despite intensified restrictions.

header2 Key Developments, June 1, 2018 – May 31, 2019

  • The scale of content removals, website closures, and social media account deletions expanded, particularly in advance of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, reaching new types of platforms and apolitical topics that were previously uncensored, including entertainment, dating, and celebrity gossip (see B2).
  • The increased reach and impact of online censorship stemmed in part from greater automation, the punitive suspension of news services run by major online portals, and large-scale closures of social media accounts that shared unofficial news and analysis (see B2).
  • Economic news was more systematically and permanently censored amid the escalating trade war with the United States and slowing domestic growth. The Tiananmen Square anniversary, the Hong Kong protests, and the mass detention of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang were also among the most heavily censored topics during the coverage period (see B2).
  • Self-censorship became more pervasive in response to real-world reprisals and legal penalties for online commentary, as well as a new tactic of shuttering the personal WeChat accounts of ordinary users for ”spreading rumors.” The account closures cut the affected individuals off from a multifaceted tool that is now regarded as essential to everyday life in China (B4).
  • The space for online mobilization also narrowed as a result of new restrictions on popular apolitical platforms—such as video-sharing, live-streaming, and blockchain applications—that had provided avenues for the dissemination of information on routinely censored topics (see B8).
  • Several new categories of individuals were targeted with legal and extralegal reprisals for their online activity. These included users of Twitter, which is blocked in China; users of virtual private networks (VPNs), which allow access to blocked overseas sites; and the moderators of human rights websites (see C3 and C7).
  • New digital surveillance technologies that were first tested in Xinjiang spread across China, such as a handheld data-extraction device that police use to copy and analyze personal information from citizens’ mobile phones. Meanwhile, Xinjiang’s Muslim minorities increasingly faced harsh penalties and detention for mundane online activities like communicating with relatives who live abroad (see C5 and C7).

A Obstacles to Access

Telecommunications companies canceled national data roaming charges in July 2018, reducing costs for consumers. Authorities conducted “one-button” network shutdown tests in several regions in May 2019, likely as a preemptive measure ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. Also in 2019, BT (formerly British Telecom) became the first foreign company to receive licenses to provide telecommunications services across the country.

A1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections? 5.005 6.006

There were 829 million internet users in China, representing 59.6 percent of the population, as of December 2018, according to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).1 The number of users reaching the internet via mobile devices grew from 753 million to 817 million between December 2017 and December 2018, meaning they accounted for 98.6 percent of all internet users.2

Internet speeds in China ranked below global averages in 2019. The country had an average broadband speed of 2.7 Mbps, according to tests conducted by the Broadband Speed League,3 earning it a rank of 152 among the 200 countries tested. Connection speeds in China are slowed down by the extensive censorship apparatus (see B1), which filters all cross-border traffic and makes the loading of content from foreign-hosted websites more sluggish.4 By contrast, the China Broadband Development Alliance reported nationwide average broadband download speed at 28 Mbps in the fourth quarter of 2018. The fastest available connections were in Shanghai, which averaged over 39 Mbps,5 while the slowest were in less prosperous and more heavily censored regions such as Xinjiang, which have average download speeds of 20 Mbps.6

In May 2019, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission jointly announced a special action plan to increase broadband penetration to over 80 percent, expand fourth-generation (4G) mobile and fiber-optic networks to cover more than 98 percent of administrative villages across the country, increase rural broadband access to match city levels, and reduce costs.7 Meanwhile, in August 2019 the state-owned mobile service provider China Unicom successfully launched and tested its first high-speed 5G network in Beijing, which it planned to roll out across the city by summer 2020.8

A2 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Is access to the internet prohibitively expensive or beyond the reach of certain segments of the population for geographical, social, or other reasons? 1.001 3.003

Internet access is relatively affordable for the average citizen. To reduce costs for consumers, state-owned mobile providers China Telecom, China Mobile, and China Unicom canceled the national data roaming fee as of July 2018.1 In the 2019 government work report, Premier Li Keqiang announced plans to reduce tariffs on small and medium-sized enterprises by 15 percent and bring down the average cost of mobile broadband by more than 20 percent. The report also announced that mobile users could freely transfer phone numbers from one service provider to another throughout the country.2

Though the digital divide between urban and rural areas narrowed marginally in previous years, 73.3 percent of users are based in cities, according to recent government figures.3 Penetration rates vary significantly by province, from 77.8 percent in Beijing to 39.9 percent in Yunnan. The CNNIC reported that 52.7 percent of all internet users were male. The share of internet users connecting through cybercafés remained relatively constant in 2018 at 19 percent, while 21.6 percent of users gained access at public computers.4 As of December 2018, 562 million people did not have access to the internet, and 63 percent of those lived in rural areas.

A3 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity? 1.001 6.006

State-run entities maintain China’s gateways to the global internet, giving authorities the ability to cut off cross-border information requests in order to block websites.1 This arrangement is the foundation for the ”Great Firewall,” as the country’s comprehensive internet censorship system is informally known. All service providers must subscribe via the gateway operators, which are overseen by the MIIT.

The government has shut down access to entire communications systems in response to specific events. The most dramatic example occurred in 2009, when authorities imposed a 10-month internet blackout in Xinjiang—home to 22 million people—after ethnic violence in the regional capital, Urumqi.2 Since then, the practice has continued on a smaller scale. In May 2019, several regions reportedly experienced temporary network shutdowns caused by government tests of a new, simplified mechanism for restricting connectivity.3 The “one button” shutdown tests affected citizens in Guangdong Province, Shanghai, and Chongqing, among other metropolitan areas, and may have been conducted as a preemptive censorship measure ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on June 4, 2019.

Human rights activists and their families are sometimes subject to targeted network disconnections. For instance, Ding Zilin, one of the founders of Tiananmen Mothers, a group of activists who lost loved ones during the Tiananmen Square protests, was closely monitored in the weeks leading up to the June 4 anniversary in 2019, and her mobile phone connection was reportedly cut off.4

Network shutdowns are often explained as national security precautions. Article 84 of a 2015 antiterrorism law introduced fines and detentions of up to 15 days for telecommunications and internet service provider (ISP) personnel who fail to “stop transmission” of terrorist or extremist content, “shut down related services,” or implement “network security” measures to prevent the transmission of such content.5 The cybersecurity law in effect since 2017 also provides legal grounds for officials to instruct network operators to stop transmission of certain content to protect public security, among other restrictions (see C2).

A4 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers? 1.001 6.006

State-owned China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom dominate the mobile market, though the government has authorized new players to enter the sector over the past few years.1 In January 2019, BT (formerly British Telecom) became the first foreign telecommunications company to receive permission to provide services across the country.2 BT was granted two nationwide licenses—a VPN license and an ISP license—that will allow it to contract domestic consumers directly and bill them in local currency, increasing competition with local Chinese providers.

Authorities exercise tight control over cybercafés and other public access points, which are licensed by the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with other state entities.3 In 2018, all cybercafés in Henan Province that were located within 200 meters of primary and middle schools were forced to close down.4 In practice, restrictions can be difficult to enforce.

A5 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner? 0.000 4.004

Several government and CCP agencies are responsible for internet regulation at the local and national levels, but the system has been consolidated during Xi Jinping’s tenure, with relevant bodies placed under tighter party control.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) and the CCP’s Office of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs—launched in 2014 and reorganized as the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission in March 2018—oversee the telecommunications sector and regulate internet content.1 The new cybersecurity law in effect since 2017 identified the CAC as the principle agency responsible for implementing many of its provisions.2 Xu Lin, a former deputy of Xi Jinping’s, led the CAC during the coverage period.3

The CAC reports to the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, a party entity that is headed directly by Xi Jinping, making it the highest authority on internet policy in China.4 Since 2014, the commission has also overseen the CNNIC, an administrative agency under the MIIT that issues digital certificates to websites.5

The CCP has exerted greater control over state regulation of the press, film, radio, and television industries in recent years. In March 2018, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) was broken up, and two of the new agencies created in its place, the Film Bureau and the State Administration of Press and Publication (SAPP), were subordinated to the CCP’s Propaganda Department.6 Meanwhile, the new State Administration of Radio and Television (SART) will report to the State Council, or cabinet, like its predecessor. The CCP Propaganda Department continues to oversee the political and ideological inclination of online content.

The nonprofit Cyber Security Association of China was established in 2016 to promote online security.7 It is made up of more than 200 member technology and cybersecurity companies and research institutions, and headed by Fang Binxing, who is recognized as the chief developer of the Great Firewall.8

B Limits on Content

The scale of content removals, website closures, and social media account deletions expanded during the coverage period, reaching new types of platforms and topics that were previously tolerated. Dating, video-sharing, and live-streaming applications were targeted by censors, and economic news was more systematically restricted amid the escalating trade war with the United States and slowing domestic growth. The tighter constraints and increased risk of penalties encouraged self-censorship and diminished the space for online public mobilization.

B1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content? 0.000 6.006

The Chinese government maintains the world’s most sophisticated internet censorship apparatus. It is known informally as the Great Firewall due to its automated technical blocking of websites and services based outside China. The resources targeted for blocking, including major social media platforms, usually contain criticism of individuals, policies, or events that are considered integral to the one-party system. The breadth of the affected global content is constantly growing, leaving Chinese users with access only to a highly censored, monitored, and manipulated version of the internet under the supervision of the CCP.

Many international news outlets, especially those with Chinese-language websites, are blocked. For example, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Wall Street Journal have been censored for years, while the websites of the Washington Post and the Guardian were newly blocked in June 2019, likely as part of the government’s efforts to tighten its grip on the flow of information surrounding the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.1 was temporarily blocked after publishing a story about the anniversary.2 Separately, in August 2018, all British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) websites were blocked after the organization switched from the HTTP web protocol to the encrypted HTTPS.3 The website of Australia’s national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), was also blocked that month, a year after the outlet began a Chinese-language news service and after it engaged in investigative reporting on China’s influence in Australian politics.4 The websites of most privately owned and independent Chinese-language news services from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Chinese diaspora—such as Liberty Times (Taiwan), Apple Daily (Hong Kong/Taiwan), Initium (Hong Kong), China Digital Times (United States), and New Tang Dynasty TV (United States)—are also blocked, with the exception of a few that closely follow the CCP line.

Most international social media and messaging platforms are completely blocked in China, including Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Telegram, and Pinterest, among others.5 The long-standing blocks on these platforms have enabled the exponential growth of local services such as Tencent’s WeChat and Sina Weibo, which are subject to the government’s strict censorship demands (see B2).

Blocks on global search engines also severely limit the content available on the Chinese internet. Google’s search engine has been blocked since 2012,6 while the Yahoo search function was newly blocked in September 2018.7 Microsoft’s Bing, which has generally remained accessible due to its compliance with the government’s censorship requirements, was blocked for one day in January 2019 for unknown reasons.8 Bing accounts for only 2 percent of the search engine market in China, which is dominated by the Chinese company Baidu, with 76 percent as of July 2019.9

A wide range of other websites that might provide information of interest to Chinese users are also blocked, including those of human rights groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Freedom House. A number of Google services—including Maps, Translate, Calendar, Scholar, and Analytics—remained blocked in 2019. The popular discussion forum Reddit was blocked in August 2018,10 while all languages of Wikipedia were newly blocked in late April 2019, ostensibly as part of the censorship sweep associated with the Tiananmen Square crackdown anniversary.11 Previously, only the Chinese-language version of Wikipedia and individual pages on sensitive topics were censored.12 The premium US television network HBO was added to the blocking list after it aired an episode of the satirical news show Last Week Tonight, hosted by British comedian John Oliver, that poked fun at President Xi’s repressive rule.13

Despite these restrictions, a minority of Chinese internet users are able to access blocked websites with circumvention tools, such as VPNs, that reroute traffic through a server outside the Great Firewall to bypass censorship. At least 20 million people use circumvention tools, according to Freedom House estimates in 2018.14 VPNs are also essential to businesses operating in China and are regularly used by government agencies. However, the government has intensified its restrictions on these tools since new regulations in 2017 placed a ban on the use of unlicensed VPNs (see C3).15 Service providers are barred from setting up VPNs without government approval, and illegal VPN operations have been increasingly targeted for closure or blocking.16 Blocks on VPNs typically escalate ahead of high-profile events, such as the annual plenary sessions of China’s legislature, and VPN providers have noticed growing technical sophistication in the VPN blocking incidents of the past year.17 Hundreds of VPN services have been banned since 2017, with many expelled from Apple’s iPhone App Store in China,18 though many free options continue to operate in the country.19

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content? 0.000 4.004

The government requires locally hosted websites and internet companies to proactively monitor their content and remove banned material, and they can face severe punishment for failure to comply. This results in the outright elimination of certain content from the internet, as opposed to blocking, which leaves the affected sites accessible to users outside China or to those using circumvention tools.1

The scale of content removals, website closures, and social media account deletions continued to expand in the past year, reaching new types of platforms and topics that were previously uncensored. The CAC documented the closure of over 2,000 websites for “illegal” content and the deletion of more than 89,000 social media accounts and chat groups for containing “harmful” information in the first quarter of 2019 alone.2 In 2018, Baidu reported deleting over 50 billion items of “harmful” information from its search engine, an increase from 45 billion in 2017.3

In a new trend during the coverage period, censors increasingly targeted “self-media,” a category that includes independent writers, bloggers, and social media celebrities. Competing with official state propaganda, self-media accounts have become a major source of independent news for Chinese users. In November 2018, the CAC announced that nearly 9,800 social media accounts had been shuttered in the previous weeks for spreading “politically harmful information, maliciously falsifying [Chinese Communist] party history, slandering heroes and defaming the nation’s image.”4 Overall, tens of thousands of these types of accounts have been shut down in the past year, delivering a major blow to one of the few remaining avenues for independent and critical news and analysis.5

Another developing trend has been the growing censorship of entertainment content and apolitical platforms such as dating, video-sharing, live-streaming, and blockchain applications, which the authorities may be targeting to prevent their use for civic mobilization or dissemination of political commentary, particularly ahead of sensitive events. For example, in May 2019, the mobile dating apps Momo (113 million users) and Tantan (90 million users) reportedly suspended their social news-feed functions for a month on orders from the government.6 The video-sharing site Bilibili (100 million users) and the LGBT+ social media app Blued (27 million users) also had the real-time communication features of their services temporarily suspended.7 Popular bloggers and live-streamers, some with tens of millions of followers, received additional scrutiny due to the scale of their influence; in 2018, an estimated 5,000 live-streaming channels were deleted for allegedly promoting “vulgar” content.8 In January 2019, the CAC issued new regulations on Chinese blockchain platforms, requiring them to censor content, implement real-name registration, and store user data.9

The authorities pressure Chinese internet companies to tightly enforce censorship regulations or risk suspensions, fines, or even closure. Such pressure has intensified under the cybersecurity law that took effect in 2017. During the coverage period, several major news and online portals were subject to short-term punitive suspensions, leading them to intensify their efforts to control content. For example, the CAC instructed Baidu and Sohu to suspend their news services for one week in January 2019 in order to “root out undesirable content”—part of a broader six-month clean-up campaign.10 In May 2019, the government announced a new “rectification” campaign through the end of the year, aimed at penalizing websites for “illegal and criminal actions.” This also likely motivated more content deletions and punitive suspensions.11

Faced with increasing state demands, major content-hosting companies have hired more human censors to purge “illegal” material and avoid penalties. Entire departments are often dedicated to content moderation and removals, with personnel sometimes numbering in the thousands. The microblogging platform Sina Weibo reported recruiting 1,000 content supervisors in late 2017 after it was fined for violating the new cybersecurity law.12 Jinri Toutiao, China’s top news app, said it was hiring 2,000 content reviewers in early 2018.13 After the live-streaming app Kuaishou was penalized in April 2018 for “inappropriate” content, it sought to hire 3,000 more internal censors, adding to its existing team of 2,000.14

Many companies now outsource their content-removal activities to so-called censorship factories, which pay low-wage workers to identify and delete problematic content.15 This new industry has grown rapidly, with one company, Beyondsoft, employing over 4,000 workers in 2019, up from 200 in 2016. At the beginning of each shift, Beyondsoft workers are briefed on the latest censorship instructions sent by clients, which generally conform to government censorship directives.16

In addition to the growing ranks of human content reviewers, automation plays an important role in censorship. Citizen Lab research published in August 2019 revealed image-filtering capabilities on the popular social media platform WeChat that targeted users’ creative efforts to circumvent text-based censorship through image-based commentary.17, the online version of the official CCP newspaper People’s Daily, has been improving its artificial intelligence–assisted censorship capabilities.18 Given the outlet’s close ties to the party and its presumed knowledge of the government’s redlines,’s censoring services have become a lucrative side business, with other websites and mobile apps, such as Jinri Toutiao, outsourcing their content review activity to

Security officials have increasingly resorted to harassing and coercing users to delete content, particularly from Twitter, which is blocked in China. A small but savvy community of internet users access Twitter via circumvention tools, enabling participation in the types of conversations that are heavily censored within the Great Firewall. Official media outlets like the People’s Daily and Xinhua News Agency actively use Twitter to reach global audiences, even as most Chinese internet users are unable to access the platform. In the past year, numerous users faced reprisals for their Twitter activities (see C3 and C7), with many forced to delete their posts en masse.19

The Chinese authorities have attempted to justify the country’s censorship system by claiming that it targets pornographic or violent content, but independent studies have repeatedly found that content related to politics, religion, economics, and social movements are a primary focus. The CCP’s Propaganda Department and its local subsidiaries issue almost daily instructions to news websites and social media platforms on what content to restrict.20

Censored topics often involve breaking news related to the reputation of the party or officials, official wrongdoing, foreign affairs, health and safety, and civil society activism.21 Any negative or unauthorized content related to President Xi is heavily censored. There is also consistent and systematic censorship of content that violates long-standing taboos on subjects such as the Cultural Revolution, Taiwanese independence, repression of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and the banned spiritual group Falun Gong.

In a newer trend, economic news became more systematically and permanently censored amid the escalating trade war with the United States and a slowing domestic economy during the coverage period.22 News about the trade war was one of the most censored topics in 2018,23 and the authorities routinely issued directives instructing news outlets to refrain from negative reporting about the economy. Financial news outlets and platforms were increasingly targeted for censorship overhauls. In September 2018, NetEase was forced to suspend updates to its financial news channel as part of a “self-criticism” and “rectification” process.24 Later that month, the CAC imposed a one-month suspension on the technology, news, and financial channels of Phoenix New Media, allegedly because its website and mobile app had violated rules on permissible news sharing.25

Many other sensitive events and news developments during the coverage period provoked high levels of censorship, including:

  • the March 2019 annual meetings of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), known as the “two sessions”;26
  • the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 1989, in which the military opened fire on peaceful prodemocracy protesters in Beijing,27 and other politically sensitive anniversaries;
  • protests against an extradition bill and in favor democratic reforms in Hong Kong;28 and
  • the worsening human rights crisis and mass detention of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.29
B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process? 0.000 4.004

Censorship decisions are arbitrary, opaque, and inconsistent, in part because so many individuals and processes are involved. Their impact may vary depending on factors like timing, technology, and geographical region. ISPs reportedly install filtering devices differently, in the internet backbone or even in provincial-level internal networks.1 Blacklists periodically leak online, but they are not officially published. There are no formal avenues for appeal. The government has generally not been transparent about content controls,2 and criticism of censorship is itself censored.3

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship? 0.000 4.004

Self-censorship among ordinary users and journalists escalated during the coverage period, particularly in response to the increased risk of account closures, real-world reprisals, and legal penalties for online commentary.

In a relatively new tactic, WeChat shut down the personal accounts of numerous ordinary users for “spreading rumors” in chat groups, cutting the affected individuals off from a multifaceted tool that is regarded as essential to everyday life in China.1 With over a billion daily active users, WeChat is not just a social media and messaging platform; users also rely on it for banking, ride hailing, ordering food, booking travel, and more.2 In addition to encouraging pervasive self-censorship, this blunt form of punishment has narrowed avenues for civic mobilization and further suppressed online activism (see B8).

There is evidence that WeChat users are self-censoring to preempt the closure of their accounts or other penalties. Research on the types of content removals on WeChat in 2018 found that the majority of deletions were initiated by the accounts themselves as opposed to WeChat administrators.3 Self-censorship is pervasive among persecuted minorities, especially Uighurs, whose WeChat activities are closely monitored. Many block their own family members living abroad to avoid being detained for their foreign contacts.4

B5 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest? 0.000 4.004

The government has significant control over digital news media and other information sources. Online discussion is subject to extensive manipulation, and user-generated content is highly regulated.

Websites and social media accounts, other than those operated by official news outlets, are not legally allowed to produce news content, though the definition of news is unclear. Propaganda officials systematically instruct internet outlets to amplify content from state media and downplay news that might generate public criticism of the government.1

In a new effort to crack down on news that challenges official narratives, the CAC in August 2018 launched an online platform with artificial intelligence capabilities that identifies and reports “online rumors.”2 Operated by the state-run news agency Xinhua, the platform, known as Piyao (Refute Rumors), integrated more than 40 similar systems and was made available as an app and on Weibo and WeChat.3

The government in January 2019 launched another new app called Study the Great Nation, which was designed to promote President Xi and CCP ideology.4 As of April 2019, it was the most downloaded app from Apple’s iPhone App Store in China, boasting more than 100 million users across the country, though many were under government pressure to engage with it.5 In September, regulators announced that journalists’ accreditation would be based on their performance on an exam drawn in part from the app’s content.6

Paid web commentators, known informally as the 50 Cent Party, are employed to post progovernment remarks and influence online discussions.7 Such commentators are known for reporting users who post offending statements and deliberately muddying the facts of particular incidents.8 They have also been known to coordinate smear campaigns against government critics.9 According to a 2017 study, progovernment web commentators are strategically deployed to distract the public from certain issues, with about 80 percent of their posts dedicated to “cheerleading” the government’s activities.10 Content manipulation extends even to platforms that are blocked in China, like Twitter, demonstrating an effort to influence online commentary beyond China’s borders.11

In addition to paid commentators, local authorities have mobilized ziganwu—volunteer commentators motivated by ideology rather than money—to promote the government’s image online.12 This activity forms part of a propaganda strategy to “spread positive energy among society.”13 A document leaked in 2015 revealed hundreds of thousands of “youth league online commentators” in China’s higher education institutions, tasked with turning students against supposed Western values.14 In 2016, a handful of ziganwu were appointed to a social media division of the Communist Youth League.15 The league’s new media working group uses Weibo, WeChat, and other social media platforms to tailor political messages for younger audiences.16

The government encourages Chinese internet companies to engage in “party building” efforts to strengthen the “ideological security” of their firms.17 Weibo, Jingdong, Baidu, Sohu, Qihoo 360, and LeTV have had CCP branches within their companies since 2016, and many smaller internet enterprises have followed suit.18 One Tencent office projects the number of party members among its employees (over 8,000 in 2019) on the wall, alongside a monthly schedule of party education training sessions offered to employees.19

Government pressure has also led private companies to proactively promote state propaganda through their services. In May 2018, after it was briefly suspended by regulators, the popular personalized news app Jinri Toutiao altered its mission statement to include spreading “correct public opinion orientation.”20

B6 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online? 0.000 3.003

Growing censorship demands, new licensing requirements, and data localization mandates have made it more expensive to run an internet company in China. While large companies have been able to absorb the rising operational costs, it is increasingly difficult for new and smaller players to enter and stay in the market. Arbitrary regulatory decisions have also contributed to an unstable investment climate for China’s technology sector.1

Independent news media have been hit especially hard. Under new CAC regulations on managing internet news and information services that came into effect in 2017,2 only traditional media or state-controlled enterprises are able to obtain a license to gather or disseminate news in any online format.3 Regulations in effect since 2016 place restrictions on foreign investment in online publishing and require at least eight full-time editorial or publishing staff members.4 In addition, new rules from the CAC have made it harder for both independent media and individual bloggers, journalists, and writers to sustain themselves financially.5 Commercial media outlets such as Caixin, known for relatively aggressive and investigative reporting, have suffered from falling profits due to censorship and new rules requiring major news portals and other aggregators to favor state media. Caixin was forced to introduce a paywall in 2017.6

B7 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the online information landscape lack diversity? 1.001 4.004

China’s online information landscape is significantly less diverse than it was even five years ago due to increasing censorship, especially of content produced by civil society activists, investigative journalists, and “self-media.” Nevertheless, the internet still provides a narrow avenue for critical discussion and enables the sharing of information on some important social and political issues.

Tens of millions of internet users bypass censorship with circumvention technology or creative work-arounds. Humorous neologisms, homonyms, and cryptic allusions are substituted for banned keywords, forcing censors to filter seemingly innocuous terms like “rice bunny,” which is pronounced “mi tu” in Mandarin and has become a well-known alternative for the intermittently censored #MeToo hashtag.1 The cartoon character Winnie the Pooh has also been systematically censored since it became a meme used to caricature Xi Jinping.2

Although they are less influential than in the past, investigative journalists continue to expose wrongdoing by companies and officials, focusing on topics that are less likely to draw censorship online and occasionally triggering national conversations. In 2018, journalists broke stories on corporate corruption, chemical spills, medical abuses, and sexual harassment, prompting consumer boycotts and prosecutions.3

A growing crackdown on organizations, websites, and social media accounts that address human rights and social subjects such as labor activism, public health, and gender equality has effectively diminished the space for civil society in recent years.4 Groups that work on less sensitive issues have a vigorous online presence, but those that are perceived as a political threat are regularly penalized (see C3), and even organizations that were tolerated in previous years have faced greater scrutiny.

Ethnic minorities and persecuted religious groups attempt to use the internet to disseminate banned content, but they remain underrepresented online. Amid the human rights crisis in Xinjiang, for example, Uighur-language content and relevant news reporting have been heavily censored, while Islamophobic commentary is permitted to circulate widely.5 LGBT+ content has been heavily restricted on China’s internet since 2017, when regulators labeled homosexuality as “abnormal sexual behavior.”6 The courts have upheld the ban despite multiple legal challenges.7

B8 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues? 1.001 6.006

The role of social media in providing a vibrant space for activism in China has waned significantly due to stricter internet controls under Xi Jinping.1 Growing censorship of popular apolitical platforms such as dating, video-sharing, live-streaming, and blockchain applications during the coverage period effectively closed loopholes that users had exploited to disseminate information and mobilize around topics that could not be discussed elsewhere (see B2).

In November 2018, the CAC introduced a new regulation that requires all internet companies “of public opinion nature” or that have “the capacity for social mobilization” to undergo “voluntary” assessments of how effective they are at preventing “security risks.”2 Under the regulation, which includes a mechanism for on-site inspections, companies are obliged to keep detailed records of user data, such as real names, internet protocol (IP) addresses, activity logs, and the type of device used.3 The new rules were issued in the wake of important protest movements that year on labor rights and the #MeToo campaign against sexual assault and harassment.

While activism on political issues is exceedingly rare, #MeToo demonstrated that citizens still attempt to organize around select social causes, and that their efforts sometimes have a real-world impact. Despite heavy censorship of the global campaign, #MeToo encouraged a number of Chinese students to speak out online about their experiences with sexual harassment (see B7), leading to a few instances of positive change. In one case, a prominent professor at Beihang University was dismissed from his job as a result of harassment allegations that were aired online. University professors across the country signed a declaration to urge the Ministry of Education to offer policy guidance for preventing sexual harassment on campus.4

Student activists have also managed to use social media to show solidarity with factory workers around the country who have been protesting the government’s crackdown on their efforts to form unions.5 However, these activists have faced reprisals, including arrests and mistreatment in detention.6

In response to growing censorship, surveillance, and legal liabilities on popular social media platforms such as WeChat and Weibo, some internet users are finding alternative ways to mobilize and to communicate with one another and the outside world. For example, technology workers have used GitHub—a global code-sharing site that is not blocked in China—to protest harsh working conditions, garnering notable support from their international colleagues.7 Online crowdfunding has also helped to support specific initiatives, like subway advertisements denouncing sexual harassment, or the broader operations of Chinese civil society organizations. Before new censorship requirements were placed on blockchain platforms in January 2019 (see B2), users turned to blockchain’s decentralized public ledgers to embed, share, and preserve critical information that is censored on other systems, such as an investigative report about inferior vaccines that were administered to Chinese babies.8

C Violations of User Rights

Several new categories of individuals were targeted with legal and extralegal reprisals for their online activity during the coverage period. These included Twitter users, VPN users, and the moderators of human rights websites. Separately, new surveillance technologies that were first tested in Xinjiang spread across China, such as a handheld data-extraction device that police used to copy and analyze personal data from citizens’ mobile phones.

C1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence? 0.000 6.006

Article 35 of the constitution guarantees freedoms of speech, assembly, association, and publication, but such rights are subordinated to the CCP’s status as the ruling power. The constitution cannot generally be invoked in courts as a legal basis for asserting rights. The judiciary is not independent and closely follows party directives, particularly in politically sensitive cases involving freedom of expression. Regulations issued by government and CCP agencies establish censorship guidelines (see C2). These are highly secretive and subject to constant change, and they cannot be challenged in the courts. Prosecutors exploit vague provisions in China’s criminal code; laws governing printing and publications; subversion, separatism, and antiterrorism laws; and state secrets legislation to imprison citizens for their online activity. Trials and hearings typically lack due process.

Some detentions, including administrative detentions authorized by public security bureaus, do not require approval by a court.1 The form of administrative detention known as “reeducation through labor” was abolished in 2013 in response to domestic and international calls for reform,2 but individuals can be detained without trial under similarly poor conditions in drug rehabilitation and “legal education” centers.3 State agents also abduct and hold individuals in secret locations without informing their families or legal counsel. The criminal procedure law provides a legal basis for detaining suspects who are considered a threat to national security in undisclosed locations.4 This has been used in recent years to hold human rights defenders and online activists in incommunicado detention for indefinite periods of time.5

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities? 0.000 4.004

Numerous laws and regulations place strict limits on the activities of internet users and the companies that provide information and communication technology services. Most recently, the sweeping cybersecurity law that took effect in 2017 increased censorship requirements, mandated data localization, codified real-name registration requirements for internet companies, and obliged them to assist security agencies with investigations.1 The law also consolidated the role of the CAC, which it identified as the principle agency responsible for implementing many of its provisions.2

The CAC and other bodies routinely introduce new rules and guidelines to further refine online restrictions, with an increasing focus on user-generated content. For example, in January 2019, the industry group China Netcasting Services Association released new rules to increase censorship and ramp up the vetting of content on popular platforms for sharing short videos.3 They include 100 detailed categories of banned content, including many forms of potential humor and satire.4 The rules also require at least one human reviewer for every 1,000 videos posted per day.5

Other laws and regulations have implications for online speech. Relevant offenses include defamation, creating disturbances, illegal commercial activities, and extortion.6 Defamation has been interpreted to include “online rumors,” content deemed false, or online expression that “seriously harms” public order or state interests.7 It carries a possible three-year prison sentence under “serious” circumstances,8 defined to apply when the content in question receives more than 5,000 views or is reposted more than 500 times.9 Online messages that are deemed to incite unrest or protests are also subject to criminal penalties. Crimes such as “subversion” and “separatism” can draw sentences as severe as life in prison under some laws, especially for religious and ethnic minorities.10 Article 300 of the criminal code punishes “using heterodox religion to undermine implementation of the law” and is often invoked against members of banned religious groups such as Falun Gong who exercise their right to free expression or access to information online.11 A 2015 amendment to the criminal code increased the maximum penalties from 15 years to life imprisonment.12

The same 2015 legislation introduced penalties of up to seven years in prison for the dissemination of misinformation on social media.13 Separately, the antiterrorism law adopted that year instructed companies to delete terrorist content or face administrative detention for their personnel. It also barred social media users from sharing information about acts of terrorism or spreading “inhuman” images that could encourage copycat attacks, and increased pressure on private companies to provide the government with user data (see C5).

C3 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are individuals penalized for online activities? 0.000 6.006

Citizens are regularly jailed for their online activities, including advocates of political reform, human rights workers, members of ethnic and religious minorities, and ordinary users who stir dissent or criticize CCP leaders, particularly Xi Jinping. A number of long prison sentences, as well as brief stints of administrative detention, were imposed during the coverage period, often penalizing categories of individuals or types of content that had been tolerated until recently. Though the people imprisoned represent a tiny percentage of the overall user population, prosecutions have a chilling effect on activism and encourage self-censorship in the broader public. Moreover, Chinese citizens’ risk of being detained or imprisoned for accessing or sharing information online or via smartphone has increased considerably over the past several years. Rapid advances in surveillance technology and growing police access to user data have helped facilitate the rise in arrests and prosecutions (see C6).1

Online journalists are frequently imprisoned for their work. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 47 journalists, 34 of whom worked online, were behind bars in China as of December 2018.2 That month, journalist Sun Lin was sentenced to four years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.”3 In June 2019, Liu Pengfei, the moderator of a popular WeChat account that posted news from outside China, was sentenced to two years in prison.4 Liu's arrest came after state media warned that WeChat group administrators could be held responsible for the content in their group under regulations in effect since 2017.5

Religious and ethnic minorities face particularly harsh treatment. Muslim residents of the Xinjiang region are heavily persecuted for their religious and cultural expression. In a September 2018 report, Human Rights Watch chronicled the Chinese government’s systematic campaign to repress Xinjiang’s roughly 13 million Muslims through mass arbitrary detentions, intrusive surveillance, and torture.6 An estimated one million people are being held in political reeducation camps,7 some of whom were targeted for their online activities, including communication with relatives living abroad via WeChat (see also C7).8

Other religious minorities are also persecuted. Many Falun Gong practitioners have been jailed in recent years for posting messages about the spiritual group or human rights abuses on social media, accessing banned websites, and possessing prohibited VPN technology.9 In January 2019, a business professor in Guangdong Province, Zeng Hao, received a sentence of 3.5 years in prison after a secret trial for posting images related to Falun Gong on the QQ messaging platform.10

Efforts to organize civic activism online are often penalized. In April 2019, authorities arrested several WeChat group moderators for hosting discussions in support of the ethnic Mongolian herding communities in the northern region of Inner Mongolia who have been protesting against the government’s interference with their traditional livelihoods.11

Several new targets of punishment emerged during the coverage period:

  • Numerous individuals were harassed, detained, or both for their use of Twitter. Though the platform is blocked in China, a small but vibrant community of activists access it via circumvention tools. Among the users penalized was Pan Xidian, who shared a political cartoon and posted about human rights issues.12 Pan was initially summoned for 20 hours of questioning in November 2018 and was later detained for 10 days after being forced to admit to disturbing social order.13 Another individual, Sun Yuanping, was sentenced to seven days of administrative detention for “disorderly behavior” after he shared a post criticizing the government on Twitter.14
  • People who operated websites about civil society and human rights issues faced harsh pretrial detentions and long prison sentences. After 20 months in pretrial detention, the founder of the website Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch, Liu Feiyue, stood trial in August 2018 on charges of “incitement to subvert state power.”15 He was sentenced to five years in prison in January 2019.16 Also in January, Huang Qi, the founder of the human rights website 64 Tianwang, was secretly tried on charges of “intentionally leaking state secrets.”17 He was sentenced to 12 years in prison in July.18 In December 2018, Zhen Jianghua, the head of Human Rights Campaign in China, an online platform, was sentenced to two years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.”19
  • Prison sentences and other penalties have been handed down for the use or sale of VPN services as part of a broader crackdown on circumvention tools (see B1). In October 2018, a software engineer in Shanghai received a three-year prison sentence for selling VPN services.20 In December 2018, a man in Guangdong Province was fined 1,000 yuan ($140) for using the circumvention tool Lantern Pro.21
C4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption? 0.000 4.004

Under data privacy legislation in effect since 2012 and additional rules that were implemented in 2017,1 web service companies are required to register users under their real names, compromising anonymity and placing communications at risk of direct government surveillance.2 While the 2012 law requires businesses to obtain users’ consent to collect their personal electronic data and outline the “use, method, and scope” of the collection, there are no limits placed on law enforcement requests for personal records. Mobile phone registration requirements also greatly infringe on user anonymity, especially given that the majority of internet services require registration with a mobile phone number.3 The authorities justify real-name registration as a means to prevent cybercrime, but uploaded identity documents are vulnerable to theft or misuse.4

Cybercafés check photo identification and record user activities, sometimes in cooperation with law enforcement. The public security bureau in Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province, developed a real-name registration application for cybercafés in the city in 2015.5 In 2017, local news reports said facial recognition technologies had been used to match customers’ faces and identification photos in cybercafés in the city of Xingtai, Hebei Province.6 Hebei authorities also instructed public Wi-Fi providers to comply with user registration requirements.7 In September 2018, Shanghai police launched a facial recognition system for user registration at cybercafés that was expected to cover all such businesses in the city.8

Chinese technology companies generally score poorly in assessments of the user protections incorporated into their services.9 The 2015 antiterrorism law requires companies to offer technical support to decrypt information at the request of law enforcement agencies, among other provisions.10 Regulations for the Administration of Commercial Encryption dating to 1999, and related rules from 2006, separately require a government regulator to approve encryption products used by foreign and domestic companies.11

As with censorship, measures that erode privacy disproportionately target groups that are perceived as threats to the regime. In Xinjiang, Uighurs have been required since 2015 to register with their real names when purchasing electronic devices with storage, communication, and broadcast features. Stores selling such equipment are also required to install software that provides police with real-time electronic records on transactions.12

C5 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy? 0.000 6.006

Direct surveillance of internet and mobile phone communications is pervasive and highly sophisticated, while privacy protections under Chinese law are minimal.

When conducting investigations, the authorities have unfettered access to user communications and data on certain popular platforms, as indicated by growing reports of users being punished for their presumably private conversations, particularly on WeChat. In April 2018, for example, a leaked directive from an internet policing department in Zhejiang Province revealed instructions to investigate an individual who had criticized Xi Jinping in a WeChat group with only eight members. Though the individual had used a pseudonym, the instructions identified him with his real name, address, and phone number.1

Residents of Xinjiang are subject to severely invasive surveillance tactics. In February 2019, security researcher Victor Gevers discovered and exposed a large database containing the personal information of 2.6 million people in Xinjiang, including official identification numbers, addresses, employers, and a list of each individual’s physical locations over the past 24 hours.2 Some of this collected data may come from the surveillance software that individuals in the region were required to install on their mobile phones beginning in 2017. The spyware, known as Jingwang (“Web Cleansing” or “Clean Net”), scans for files that match blacklisted content.3 Researchers at the Open Technology Fund confirmed the application’s intrusive capabilities and discovered inherent vulnerabilities in the channels used to relay collected data to government servers.4

Xinjiang has become a testing ground for surveillance technology that is later deployed in the rest of the country.5 One such system that appeared across China during the coverage period was a handheld data-extraction device that police used to copy and analyze personal information from citizens’ mobile phones.6

Separately, companies and municipalities have begun testing “social credit” schemes that will allow an assessment of individuals’ online activities and other personal data before they are granted financial credit or access to certain services.7 The schemes have been subject to criticism within China due to privacy and other concerns, but plans to expand the concept continued to move forward during the coverage period. The central government planned to launch a nationwide, mandatory social credit system by 2020.8

C6 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are service providers and other technology companies required to aid the government in monitoring the communications of their users? 0.000 6.006

Internet companies are required under numerous laws and regulations to assist the government in surveilling users’ online activities. Recent regulations include a September 2018 rule that provides security authorities with broad powers to enter the premises of all internet service companies to inspect and copy any information deemed important to cybersecurity.1

That rule formed part of the Provisions on Internet Security Supervision and Inspection by Public Security Organs, published by the Ministry of Public Security, which allow officials to supervise and inspect the “network security” of ISPs. The new regulatory package complemented the 2017 cybersecurity law’s requirement that network operators assist police and security agencies with criminal investigations or national security operations.2 Inspections under the new rules began immediately. In December 2018, the public security organ of the city of Wuling in southern China reportedly conducted a network security inspection of the local branches of China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom. The published results noted that one of the companies had failed to implement network log retention measures and was required to immediately rectify the problem.3

Other surveillance laws include a 2013 amendment to the criminal procedure code that lays out a vague review process for allowing police monitoring of suspects’ electronic communications, which the Ministry of Public Security permits in many types of criminal investigations.4 The State Secrets Law obliges telecommunications companies to cooperate with authorities investigating leaked state secrets or risk losing their licenses.5

Various regulations outline requirements for companies to retain user data, which they must make available to officials, despite new penalties on companies that infringe on privacy under the 2017 cybersecurity law.6 CAC rules issued in 2016 oblige Chinese app providers to register users and keep user activity logs for 60 days.7 Other ISPs are required to retain user information for 60 days and submit it to the authorities upon request, without judicial oversight or transparency.8

The 2017 cybersecurity law mandates that internet companies store the data of Chinese citizens on servers based in the country, a practice that makes it easier for the government to access user information. Apple quickly complied with the requirement, announcing plans that year to open a data center in China.9 In February 2018, Apple’s iCloud began storing the data of its Chinese users in partnership with Guizhou-Cloud Big Data, a state-run company.10 Apple has also complied with other obligations that facilitate government surveillance: in September 2018, it changed the hardware specifications of new iPhones for the Chinese market to comply with real-name registration rules and improve authorities’ ability to track user identities.11

Tencent—the parent company of WeChat and QQ, two of the world’s most widely used social media platforms—directly assists the Chinese government with surveillance. Security researcher Victor Gevers found in March 2019 that millions of conversations and user identities on Tencent platforms were being sent from cybercafés to police stations across the country.12

The e-commerce giant Alibaba also helps the government with surveillance. In October 2019, research published by the Open Technology Fund revealed evidence that the government’s Study the Great Nation app, which was designed by Alibaba to promote the CCP’s ideology and encourage the study of “Xi Jinping thought” in particular (see B5), was built with a back door that could grant the authorities access to users’ internet browsing histories, text messages, photos, and other personal information.13

C7 1.00-5.00 pts0-5 pts
Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in retribution for their online activities? 0.000 5.005

Reports of torture and extralegal harassment are widespread, and many are well documented, particularly those involving political prisoners and freedom of expression cases. During the coverage period, many labor activists who had mobilized online were held incommunicado amid high-profile protests around the country; those detained included Wei Zhili, Ke Chengbing,1 and Shen Mengyu.2

In Xinjiang, some of the estimated one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities detained in reeducation camps were targeted for online activities, such as downloading WhatsApp, possessing the contact information of prominent Uighur scholars, or storing religious content on their mobile phones.3 Uighurs are also singled out for contacting relatives who live abroad: 24-year-old Erpat Ablekrem, for example, was sent to a reeducation camp in January 2019 for using WeChat to contact family members who had fled the country.4 Such persecution has resulted in widespread fear and self-censorship among Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in China (see B4).

The crackdown on Twitter users during the coverage period often included harassment and intimidation (see C3). According to the New York Times, activist Huang Chengcheng was interrogated for over eight hours while tied to a chair until he promised to stay off Twitter.5 In March 2019, lawyer Zhu Xiuyuan was warned by police that he had “liked many harmful posts that insulted the party.”6 An editor at a provincial state broadcaster in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, was demoted and docked pay for registering a Twitter account and following “harmful information from illegal overseas websites.”7

According to a 2015 Human Rights Watch report, detainees in ordinary criminal cases face “physical and psychological torture during police interrogations, including being hung by the wrists, being beaten with police batons or other objects, and prolonged sleep deprivation.” Political and religious prisoners often experience even worse treatment.8 Many—like online activist Huang Qi—are denied medication and medical parole despite serious illnesses, raising the possibility that they might die in custody.9

Law enforcement officials frequently summon individuals for questioning in relation to online activity, an intimidation tactic referred to euphemistically as being “invited to tea.”10 Activists have also been forced to travel within the country during sensitive political events, effectively keeping them away from their normal online activities.11

C8 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack? 0.000 3.003

Hackers, known in Chinese as heike (dark guests), employ various methods to interrupt or intercept online content with political implications. China remains a top source of global cyberattacks,1 though those with commercial targets have declined or become harder to trace.2 Attacks known to have originated in China can rarely be linked directly to the state, and much of the activity appears decentralized and uncoordinated. However, many attacks employ sophisticated technology, and experts believe that Chinese military and intelligence agencies either sponsor or condone technical attacks on political targets.

In April 2019, the human rights group Charter 08 reported that the contents of its online forum had been deleted and its Google blog had been removed. The organization also noted that its Twitter account had been hacked several times in recent months.3 Many Chinese Twitter users were hacked during the coverage period, apparently as part of the government’s crackdown on the platform (see B2, C7). One activist, Wang Aizhong, had 3,000 tweets deleted from his account in December 2018, which he attributed to state-sponsored hacking.4

Websites associated with the persecuted Uighur minority group have faced frequent cyberattacks in recent years. In April 2019, researchers reported that 11 websites commonly visited by members of the Uighur community had been compromised with malicious software that infected visitors’ mobile devices and intercepted user data such as unique identification numbers, phone numbers, and location information.5

On China

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  • Global Freedom Score

    9 100 not free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    9 100 not free
  • Freedom in the World Status

    Not Free
  • Networks Restricted

  • Websites Blocked

  • Pro-government Commentators

  • Users Arrested