During these past few weeks, the Chinese Government has taken a stronger action on internet censorship regarding call for protests. A series of sensitive words has been censored in all local social networking platforms and different forms of online discussion. First, we have the Chinese word “Egypt” (埃及), followed by the Chinese word “Hillary Clinton” (希拉里), now the latest we have “Jasmine”, “Jon Huntsman” (US Ambassador to China), and Beijing’s famous shopping avenue “Wangfujing” has also been blacklist. These keywords which are so common to everyone have unnerved the Chinese authorities…
Last weekend on Twitter and China’s most popular microblog Sina Weibo, Chinese internet users were reposting calls to gather across 13 major cities in China to protest and kick off a so-called “Jasmine Revolution”, clearly inspired by the events in North Africa and the Middle East over the past few weeks. The protest appeal had urged people to “take responsibility for the future” and to express some of the most pressing social issues in China. So the Chinese word “Jasmine” (茉莉花) has become a sensitive term in China’s Internet.
During the call for protests in Beijing, China capital city, a crowd of several hundred people gathered. The Chinese authorities seemed to take it seriously, deploying extra police at the location spot. The crowd, however, consisted almost entirely of foreign journalists and curious passerby, along with a handful of young people who said they had heard about the protest appeal and came to watch. Inside the crowd, someone has spotted US ambassador Jon Huntsman was present at this so-called revolution “stroll”. The US Embassy has clarified that the ambassador’s presence was “purely coincidental”. So the Chinese word “Jon Huntsman” (洪博培) has become a sensitive term too.
The protest site in Beijing was selected at the most famous shopping avenue called “Wangfujing”(王府井), and the Chinese netizens have planned out for the second Jasmine Revolution “stroll” this weekend (Feb 27), at the most prominent 18 cities nationwide. Beijing is the capital city of China therefore all eyes will be on Wangfujing. So, the famous street name, also known as the land mark of Beijing, has joined the list of sensitive terms.
At the moment, most of the censorship action is targeted on Sina microblog and major Chinese dissussion forums. Any online discussion regarding these sensitive terms of word will be removed, and all search results will not be displayed. What’s more, China’s cell phone carriers are keeping an eye out on every cellphone users, so the Chinese mobile phone users could not use the sensitive words in their text messaging and 3G web surfing. China’s most popular search engine, Baidu, is still able to search out the info on these common words, but nothing much related to revolution, protest and internet freedom. Although there is an increasing number of Chinese people who are becoming aware of censorship and ways to circumvent it, Chinese authorities have been largely successful in controlling the spread of information. China blocks websites like Facebook and Twitter, which were used by activists in Egypt, and keeps out other undesirable foreign content by using Web-filtering technology.
We believe China is unlikely to suffer similar unrest because the living standards in China are generally rising faster than Egypt and the social controls are much stronger too, especially online. Those global mainstream sites which are used by most people are all block by the Great Firewall of China. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are the most popular info sharing and social communicate networks, while Google is the most powerful searching tool, all these internet services could only be accessed with VPN while you are in China. It is ironic to see the Chinese authorities preventing the Chinese internet users to connect outside the world by putting more restrictions on them. So what are the next sensitive words which would unnerve the Chinese Government?
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