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China: The fear implied in a real-name internet

In China, the internet has become an important platform for citizens’ participation in policy making and criticism of officials. The freedom of the internet is largely guaranteed by the anonymity it offers users. However efforts to deprive the users of such freedom have never stopped. Not long ago, a young man in Shanghai was arrested because he accused his hometown government of corruption. The amazing fact is that the local police traveled hundreds of miles to Shanghai to hunt him down after identifying him as the blogger.

Now the authorities in Hangzhou seems to be taking these effort even further. The city congress has legislated that all local users, including bloggers, should register with their real names.

A post by blogger West-of-Lake-West is very popular on the internet these days. This blog entry detailed several articles in a regulation which was to be implemented on 1st May. The piece of law, passed by city congress, is named ‘Regulation on Protection of Computer Information and Internet safety’ (计算机信息网络安全保护管理条例).

In article 18, the blogger found that

…..应当记录上网用户的上网时间,用户帐号,互联网网络地址或者域名,主角电话号码等信息。

The internet service providers must record the time, account, IP and telephone number of their users.

The blogger questioned:

我要问的是,如果我去杭州百货大楼去买某品牌的衣服,我需要向杭州大厦登记我的姓名,地址,身份证号码么?有这样的道理么?凭什么我去上网,我的上网信息要被他们记录。你给我个理由,你问过我们没有?

I want to ask, if I am shopping for clothes in a department store , should I have to register my name, address and ID? Does that make sense? Give me a reason. Have you ever asked our opinion about this law?

He then posted online the article 19:

提供电子公告,网络游戏和其他即时通信服务的,具有用户注册信息和发布信息审核功能的,并如实想起申请开设上述服务的用户的有效身份证明。电子公告指的是户料网上的论坛,聊天室,留言板,博客等交互形式。

The providers of online Bulletin Board Systems, online games and other instant messaging services, must obtain the identification of the users. The services the regulation concerns include online forums, chat rooms, bulletin boards and blogs.

An article he found to be the most ridiculous is:

鼓动公众恶意评论他人,公开发布他人隐私,或者通过暗示,影射等方式,对他人进行人身攻击的。

It is illegal to encourage the public to viciously comment on others, publish about others privacy, or commit personal attacks on others by alluding or imputation.

He made fun of the article:

再说了,我想请教法律专家,如何操控定义恶意评论他人,更如何在法律的框架下定义影射与暗示。我说,在杭州有一个姓王的胖子很坏,我是不是影射那个胖子王姓市委书记?

I want to ask the experts how to define ‘viciously comment’ under the new law in a way compatible with the principle of legislation? I say, there is a bad, fat guy surnamed Wang in Hangzhou. Am I then alluding to the head of Hangzhou government who happens also to be fat and surnamed Wang?

Finally he said he would be considered as a criminal after 1 May, because

注意,我这篇帖子违反了法律:首先没有身份登记,还有鼓动公众恶意评论,第三,我还可能影射了一个胖子,这个胖子有人说是苹果王,有人说是王苹果,还有pgw,还有王书籍。。。

Take note, this post exactly violates the law! First I didn't register my information, second I encourage ‘vicious comment’ and third, I am alluding to a fat man. Someone says it is Wang A, another says it is Wang B and a third says its the Party Secretary Wang….so who is correct?

我们该怎么面对这份法律,我们以后还能怎么说话?我们还有没有批评权利?谁能保证我们在批评的时候的权利?

How could we live with this law? How could we speak up in the future? Are we allowed to criticize anyone? Who can guarantee our right to complain?

我们向全国网友求救。、。。。

We ask for help from netizens all over the country.
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  • http://www.Balkingpoints.com Roy Greenfield

    Great article Bob. This is something that would not get much coverage in the Western press. Americans in particular, could learn a lot about modern China from your post.

    We wouldn’t be very aware for example, that Chinese netziens have been using their internet connection for either a policy voice, nor for criticism of officials.

    Most Americans would think it was never allowed to begin with. So keep up your efforts – we stand with your right to speak out on the WWW!

    • Bob

      Thanks Roy, I am glad that you like the post. It is sad to see the restriction imposed on the internet in China. And I am afraid as 2009 is a sensitive timing for the Chinese government, the supervision net is tightening. But I know that eventually the dam will be broken by the flooding of voices of liberty, as I believe in Chinese’s wisdom to penetrate the wall.

  • Pingback: South Korea: Over Reaction to Free Speech Here and Elsewhere | The Marmot's Hole

  • shelly

    great work bob….
    freedom to speech is the basic human right one is born with but it seems that the chinese authorities want to deny humanity to every voice…
    but the voices will still find ways

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