Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China

Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China

Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China is conducted under a wide variety of laws and administrative regulations. There are no specific laws or regulations which the censorship follows. In accordance with these laws, more than sixty Internet regulations have been made by the People's Republic of China (PRC) government, and censorship systems are vigorously implemented by provincial branches of state-owned ISPs, business companies, and organizations.[1][2] China's internet environment remains one of the world’s most restrictive, and China is ranked "Not Free" in Freedom House's internet survey.[3]

The censorship is not applied in Hong Kong and Macau, as they are special entities recognized by international treaty vested with independent judicial power[4] and not subject to most laws of the PRC,[5] including those requiring the restriction of free flow of information.

The escalation of the government's effort to neutralize critical online opinion comes after a series of large anti-Japanese, anti-pollution, anti-corruption protests, and ethnic riots, many of which were organized or publicized using instant messaging services, chat rooms, and text messages. The size of the Internet police is rumored at more than 30,000.[6] Critical comments appearing on Internet forums, blogs, and major portals such as Sohu and Sina usually are erased within minutes.

The apparatus of the PRC's Internet repression is considered more extensive and more advanced than in any other country in the world. The governmental authorities not only block website content but also monitor the Internet access of individuals. Amnesty International notes that China “has the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world.” The offences of which they are accused include communicating with groups abroad, opposing the persecution of the Falun Gong, signing online petitions, and calling for reform and an end to corruption.[7]

In 2010 about 1.3 million websites closed down in mainland China made 41 percent fewer websites at the end of 2010 than a year earlier.[8]


Beginning of Regulations

China started its Internet censorship with three regulations issued by China’s central government. The first regulation was called the Temporary Regulation for the Management of Computer Information Network International Connection. The regulation was passed in the 42nd Standing Convention of the State Council on 23 January 1996. It was formally announced on 1 February 1996, and updated again on the 20th of May 1997.[9]

The content of the first regulation states, “ No units or individuals are allowed to establish direct international connection by themselves.” (Item 6) “All direct linkage with the Internet must go through ChinaNet, GBNet, CERNET or CSTNET. A license is required for anyone to provide Internet access to users.” (Item 8) The second regulation was the Ordinance for Security Protection of Computer Information Systems. It was issued on February 18 of 1994 by the State Council to give the responsibility of Internet security protection to the Ministry of Public Security, which is entitled to “supervise, inspect and guide the security protection work”, and to “investigate and prosecute illegal criminal cases” (Item 17) [10]

The Ordinance regulation further led to the Security Management Procedures in Internet Accessing issued by the Ministry of Public Security in December 1997. The regulation defines "harmful information" and further lists five kinds of harmful activities regarding Internet usage, “ (1) Intruding in a computer information network or making use of network resources without authorization; (2) Canceling, altering or adding functions in a computer information network without authorization; (3) Canceling, altering or adding data and application software for the purpose of memory, processing, or transmission in a computer information network without authorization; (4) Intentionally producing, disseminating destructive software such as a computer virus; (5) Other activities that are harmful to the security of a computer information network.” (Item 6) [11]


State Internet Information Office

In May, 2011 the State Council Information Office announced transfer of its offices which regulated the internet to a new subordinate agency, the State Internet Information Office which would be responsible for regulating the internet in the People's Republic of China. The relationship of the new agency to other agencies in the PRC which regulate the internet was unclear from the announcement.[12]


In December 1997, Public Security minister Zhu Entao released new regulations to be enforced by the ministry that inflict fines for 'defaming government agencies,' 'splitting the nation,' and leaking "state secrets." Violators could face a fine up to 15,000 Yuan ($1800).[13] Banning appears mostly coordinated and ad hoc, with some sites blocked, yet similar sites allowed or even blocked in one city and allowed in another.[14] The blocks have often been lifted for special occasions. For example, The New York Times was unblocked when reporters in a private interview with Jiang Zemin specifically asked about the block and he replied that he would look into the matter. During the APEC summit in Shanghai during 2001, normally-blocked media sources such as CNN, NBC, and the Washington Post became accessible. Since 2001, the content controls have been further relaxed on a permanent basis, and all three of the sites previously mentioned are now accessible from mainland China. However, access to the New York Times was briefly re-blocked as of 20 December 2008,[15] although it has been accessible for the first months of 2009 as of 17 May.

Section Five of the Computer Information Network and Internet Security, Protection, and Management Regulations approved by the State Council on 11 December 1997 states the following:

No unit or individual may use the Internet to create, replicate, retrieve, or transmit the following kinds of information:

  1. Inciting to resist or breaking the Constitution or laws or the implementation of administrative regulations;
  2. Inciting to overthrow the government or the socialist system;
  3. Inciting division of the country, harming national unification;
  4. Inciting hatred or discrimination among nationalities or harming the unity of the nationalities;
  5. Making falsehoods or distorting the truth, spreading rumors, destroying the order of society;
  6. Promoting feudal superstitions, sexually suggestive material, gambling, violence, murder;
  7. Terrorism or inciting others to criminal activity; openly insulting other people or distorting the truth to slander people;
  8. Injuring the reputation of state organizations;
  9. Other activities against the Constitution, laws or administrative regulations.[16]

Golden Shield Project

The Golden Shield Project (Chinese: 金盾工程; Chinese: jīndùn gōngchéng) is owned by the Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China (MPS). It started in 1998, began processing in November 2003, and the first part of the project passed the national inspection on 16 November 2006 in Beijing. According to MPS, its purpose is to construct a communication network and computer information system for police to improve their capability and efficiency. According to China Central Television (CCTV), by 2002 the preliminary work of the Golden Shield Project had cost US$800 million (equivalent to RMB 6,400 million or €640 million).[17]

The Golden Shield Project is part of what is sometimes known outside of mainland China as the Great Firewall of China . The system blocks content by preventing IP addresses from being routed through. It consists of standard firewalls and proxy servers at the Internet gateways. The system also selectively engages in DNS poisoning when particular sites are requested. The government does not appear to be systematically examining Internet content, as this appears to be technically impractical.[18]

Researchers at the University of California, Davis and at the University of New Mexico said that the Great Firewall is not a true firewall since banned material is sometimes able to pass through several routers or through the entire system without being blocked.[19]


In September 2000, the State Council Order No. 292 created the first content restrictions for Internet content providers. China-based Web sites cannot link to overseas news Web sites or distribute news from overseas media without separate approval. Only “licensed print publishers” have the authority to deliver news online. Non-licensed Web sites that wish to broadcast news may only publish information already released publicly by other news media. These sites must obtain approval from state information offices and from the State Council Information Agency. Article 11 of this order mentions that “content providers are responsible for ensuring the legality of any information disseminated through their services”.[20]

Article 14 gives Chinese officials full access to any kind of sensitive information they wish: “ [...] an IIS provider must keep a copy of its records for 60 days and furnish them to the relevant state authorities upon demand in accordance to the law.” Finally, article 15 defines what information must be restricted: “IIS providers shall not produce, reproduce, release, or disseminate information that: [...] endangers national security, [...]is detrimental to the honor of the state, [...] undermines social stability, the state’s policy towards religion, [...] other information prohibited by the law or administrative regulations”.

Censored content

Out of the Top 100 Global Websites, 12 are currently blocked in mainland China.[21]

Research into mainland Chinese Internet censorship has shown that censored websites included, before the 2008 Summer Olympics:

From the above list, the websites of BBC News, the Chinese Wikipedia, Yahoo! Hong Kong and the Voice of America were later unblocked (as observed on 17 August 2008). However, Voice of America and Yahoo! Hong Kong returned to their blocked status later on (as observed on 14 December 2009).

In the second half of 2009 the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter were blocked, presumably because of containing social or political commentary (similar to LiveJournal in the above list). An example is the commentary on the deadly riots in Xinjiang in July 2009.[28][29] Another reason suggested for the block is that activists can utilize them to organize themselves.[30][31] In 2010 Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo became a forbidden topic in Chinese media due to his winning the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.[32] Blocked websites are indexed to a lesser degree, if at all, by some Chinese search engines, such as Baidu and Google China. This sometimes has considerable impact on search results.[33] According to a Harvard study, at least 18,000 websites are blocked from within mainland China.[34] According to The New York Times, Google has set up computer systems inside China that try to access Web sites outside the country. If a site is inaccessible, then it is added to Google China's blacklist.[35] However, once (if) unblocked, the websites will be reindexed.

Green Dam Youth Escort

A notice[36] issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on 19 May stated that, as of 1 July 2009, manufacturers must ship machines to be sold in mainland China with the Green Dam software, and that manufacturers are required to report the number of machines shipped with the software to the government.[37] The official statement claimed its objective was "to build a green, healthy, and harmonious online environment, and to avoid the effects on and the poisoning of our youth's minds by harmful information on the internet".[38]

A senior official of the Internet Affairs Bureau of the State Council Information Office said the software's only purpose was "to filter pornography on the Internet". Foreign ministry official, Qin Gang said the internet had always been open in China and that the government's administration of it to prevent the spread of harmful information was in accordance with the law. The general manager of Jinhui, which developed Green Dam, said: "Our software is simply not capable of spying on Internet users, it is only a filter."[39]

Human rights advocates and internet users in China have been especially critical, saying that while the software is ostensibly aimed at protecting users against pornography on the web, it "is really a thinly concealed attempt by the government to expand censorship".[40] Online polls conducted on Sina, Netease, Tencent and Sohu revealed overwhelming (>70%) rejection of the software by netizens.[41] A poll conducted by the Southern Metropolis Daily showed similar results.[42]

On 10 June, the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee issued an instruction requiring the Chinese media to stop publishing questioning or critical opinions. The instruction also required online forums to block and remove "offensive speech evolved from the topic" promptly.[43] Xinhua later commented that "support [for Green Dam] largely stems from end users, opposing opinions primarily come from a minority of media outlets and businesses".[44][45]

On 14 August 2009, Li Yizhong, minister of industry and information technology, announced that computer manufacturers and retailers were no longer obliged to ship the software with new computers for home or business use, but that schools, internet cafes and other public use computers would still be required to run the software.

50 Cent Party

The "50 Cent Party" is an unofficial pejorative term for people hired by the PRC Government to post comments favorable to government policies in an attempt to shape, sway, and control public opinion on various Internet message boards.[46][47] The commentators are said to be paid for every post that either steers a discussion away from anti-party or sensitive content or that advances the Communist party line on domestic websites, bulletin board systems, and chatrooms.[48][49] The term is sometimes extended to anyone who posts an excessively patriotic comment about China online.[50]

Providing the government's position in this fashion would be in keeping with principles of freedom of expression and would not be considered censorship, as long as it is done transparently and does not overwhelm alternative sources of information. However, in the case of the "50 Cent Party", private citizens are paid by the government to pretend to be “ordinary” netizens without disclosing that they are in fact being paid to promote the government's positions. And this is not a small operation - in July 2008 there were an estimated 280,000 paid web commentators doing this sort of work. The number of Internet users in China had doubled by mid-2011 and it is possible that the number of paid commentators has grown to match.[51]

Political censorship

July 2009 Ürümqi riots

Government censors disabled keyword searches for "Urumqi", and blocked access to Facebook and Twitter as well as local alternatives Fanfou and Youku. Chinese news sites mainly fed from Xinhua news service for updates about the rioting in Ürümqi, comments features on websites were disabled on some stories to prevent negative posts about the lack of news.[52] Internet connections in Ürümqi were reportedly down.[53] Many unauthorized postings on local sites and Google were said to have been "harmonised" by government censors, and emails containing terms related to the riots were blocked or edited to prevent discord. Nevertheless, images and video footage of the demonstrations and rioting were soon found posted on Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.[54]

20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square protests

"For reason which everyone knows, and to suppress our extremely unharmonious thoughts, this site is voluntarily closed for technical maintenance between 3 and 6 June 2009..." (translation)

Coinciding with the twentieth anniversary of the government suppression of the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square, the government ordered internet portals, forums and discussion groups to shut down their servers for maintenance between 3 and 6 June.[55]

In order to improve the internet content and provide a healthy environment for our netizens, we have designated 3 to 6 June as the national server maintenance day. This move is widely supported by the public

–Chinese censors, South China Morning Post[55]

The Guardian reported that in excess of 300 Chinese sites had "posted increasingly blasé maintenance messages on the anniversary". A number of websites, such as Fanfou and, made a veiled protest at state censorship by referring to the date sarcastically as "Chinese Internet Maintenance Day".[56] The day before the mass shut-down, Chinese users of Twitter, Hotmail and Flickr, among others, reported a widespread inability to access these services.[57]

2008 Olympics

IOC agreement

Initially, the PRC government, the IOC and Jacques Rogge had stated that Internet access would not be censored at the Olympic Village press center.[58] However, journalists that arrived at the press center after its opening on 25 July found that sites containing politically sensitive matter were inaccessible and learned that the IOC had quietly agreed to "some of the limitations."[58] IOC press chief Kevan Gosper admitted that, "I regret that it now appears BOCOG has announced that there will be limitations on Web site access during Games time. I also now understand that some IOC officials negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered Games related."[59] Foreign media was not informed about this private agreement, and IOC press chief Kevan Gosper apologized to journalists for giving the impression that Internet access during the Olympics would be completely unrestricted. Furthermore, on 31 July 2008, the BOCOG Chinese spokesman, Sun Weide, indicated that the media will have "convenient and sufficient" access to the Internet.[58] However, he also said that the government will not allow the spread of any information on the internet that is forbidden by Chinese law or harms national interests.[60] China had unblocked access to some Internet Web sites, including non-politically sensitive parts of English Wikipedia, after the IOC protested that ongoing blocking "would reflect very poorly" on the host nation;[61] subsequently, the Technology Ministry said that there would continue to be controls, and it was unclear what the final list of prohibited sites would be.[62]

Partial censorship

The censorship at the press center added to a growing skepticism about the claims of the government that it would improve its record on human rights.[58] The "broken promise" was condemned by Reporters Without Borders who pointed out that about 20,000 foreign journalists would be directly affected.[63] A pre-Olympics crackdown by the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre on “illicit” websites, temporarily shut down, 21CN, Sichuan online, Shenzhen online, Tom online, and[64] Some websites and blogs with politically sensitive content, such as bulletin board services on and, have been blocked.[64]

On 1 August 2008, Reuters reported that Internet restrictions would be lifted for reporters covering the Olympics.[65] Beginning 1 August, in response to international criticism, some previously-blocked websites became accessible, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Many websites related to Falun Gong and Tibet remained blocked. The BBC's Chinese-language site was intermittently accessible and blocked. As of 5 August, the BBC's English website previously barred, remain open, if slow to load – as does the Hong Kong-based Apple Daily.[66] However the Chinese version was blocked again in December 2008.[67]

Reporters Without Borders subsequently confirmed that its website, except for the Chinese version, was accessible for the first time in China since 2003. The Chinese version of the website is still blocked.[68] While some previously-censored foreign websites were accessible during the Olympics, Reporters Without Borders claims that there has been increased restriction of domestic websites and online activity, including the popular internet chatting service "QQ".[69] On 2 August 2008, the Associated Press reported that although Chinese organizers unblocked some sites at the request of the IOC, others remained censored for journalists covering the Summer Games. Even though Chinese officials and high-ranking IOC members have repeatedly said there would be no censorship on the Internet for accredited journalists covering the games, many sites the Chinese government objects to, for example, the spiritual movement Falun Gong, are blocked. The sites being blocked seem to change daily. Some key words always draw blank screens. Sites that host thousands of blogs are also routinely blocked.[70] As of 4 August, Human Rights in China and websites affiliated with Tibetan independence and the outlawed spiritual movement Falun Gong, remained inaccessible inside and outside of Olympic venues.[71]

Access to Apple, Inc.'s online iTunes Store was blocked in China after it emerged that Olympic athletes had been downloading a pro-Tibetan album in a subtle act of protest. However, this action lasted only for a short time before it was revoked by the government. The album, Songs for Tibet, was produced by a group called The Art of Peace Foundation, and features 20 tracks from well-known singers and songwriters including Sting, Moby, and Suzanne Vega.[citation needed]

Crackdown on Internet activists

In 2001, Wang Xiaoning and other Chinese activists were arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison for using a Yahoo email account to post anonymous writing to an Internet mailing list, which Yahoo, after pressure from the Chinese government eventually blocked. However, with the help of the World Organization for Human Rights, Wang and Shi Tao, another online activist sued Yahoo, accusing the Internet provider of abetting the torture of pro-democracy writers by providing information that allowed the Chinese government to identify them.[72]

On 23 July 2008, the family of Liu Shaokun was notified that he had been sentenced to one year re-education through labor for “inciting a disturbance”. As a teacher in Sichuan province, he had taken photographs of collapsed schools and posted these photos online.[73]

On 18 July 2008, Huang Qi was formally arrested on suspicion of illegally possessing state secrets. Huang had spoken with the foreign press and posted information on his website about the plight of parents who had lost children in collapsed schools.[74]

Locking data centers

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People's Republic of China ordered all ISPs to lock down their data centers from 1–25 August 2008.[75] During this time no one could enter data centers to do maintenance. Sites with illegal information were blocked automatically. Authorities stated it was to ensure data security, to prevent hostile personnel from entering data centers and adding illegal information.[75]
ISP/IDCs have sent "lockdown notices" to customers.[76]
Companies have received orders stating that from 1–25 August 2008:

  1. Customers will not be able to enter data centers.
  2. Customers will not able to add new hardware.
  3. Any sites with illegal information will be blocked automatically, and site owners will not be able to request unblocking as they normally can.

In customers' interests, companies have suggested:

  1. Customers should manage their sites carefully. Forums mediators should check any new posts before publishing, and customers should shut down all interactive services including forums, because sites will be blocked if customers fail to filter out illegal information.
  2. Avoid maintenance.
  3. Reduce promotions.
  4. Contact the company as soon as possible if a customer wants to add new hardware.


Internet censorship in the PRC has been called "a panopticon that encourages self-censorship through the perception that users are being watched."[19] The enforcement (or threat of enforcement) of censorship creates a chilling effect where individuals and businesses willingly censor their own communications to avoid legal and economic repercussions. Professor Yantao BI reported on 30 October 2008 that some websites in mainland China have already imposed the controversial true-name registration policy.

Search engines

One part of the block is to filter the search results of certain terms on Chinese search engines. These Chinese search engines include both international ones (for example, and Google China) as well as domestic ones (for example, Baidu). Attempting to search for censored keywords in these Chinese search engines will yield few or no results. Previously, displayed the following at the bottom of the page: "According to the local laws, regulations and policies, part of the searching result is not shown." As was the case when searching for information about the 2011 uprising in Egypt.[77]

In addition, a connection containing intensive censored terms may also be closed by The Great Firewall, and cannot be reestablished for several minutes. This affects all network connections including HTTP and POP, but the reset is more likely to occur during searching.

Before the search engines censored themselves, many search engines had been blocked, namely Google and AltaVista.[78] Technorati, a search engine for blogs, has been blocked.[79]

Different search engines implement the mandated censorship in different ways. For example, the search engine Bing is reported to censor search results from searches conducted in simplified Chinese characters (used in the PRC), but not in traditional Chinese characters (used in Taiwan and elsewhere).[80]


Several Bulletin Board Systems in universities were closed down or restricted public access since 2004, including the SMTH BBS and the YTHT BBS.[81]

Chinese social networks

Since 2010, much attention is given to the Sina Weibo instant messaging service. Although the government and media often utilize its popularity to spread ideas and monitor corruption, it is also supervised and self censored by 700 Sina censors.[82] After the July 23 (2011) Wenzhou train accident, many fierce responses were expressed through the Weibo, criticizing official corruption, leading the government to re-consider the freedom given to Weibo users. Consequently, Sina self-censorship and aggressive content is less easily accepted.

Furthermore, the government is emphasizing the danger in spreading 'false rumors' (yaoyan), making the permissive usage of Weibo and social networks a public debate.[83] In addition, new fines and short arrests are becoming an optional punishment to whoever expresses false information through the different internet formats, as this is seen as a risk to social stability.[84]

Local businesses

Although blocking foreign sites has received much attention in the West, this is actually only a part of the PRC effort to censor the Internet. The ability to censor content providers within mainland China is much more effective, as the ISPs and other service providers are restricting customers' actions for fear of being found legally liable for customers' conduct. The service providers have assumed an editorial role with regard to customer content, thus became publishers, and legally responsible for libel and other torts committed by customers.[citation needed]

Although the government does not have the physical resources to monitor all Internet chat rooms and forums, the threat of being shut down has caused Internet content providers to employ internal staff, colloquially known as "big mamas", who stop and remove forum comments which may be politically sensitive. In Shenzhen, these duties are partly taken over by a pair of police-created cartoon characters, Jingjing and Chacha, who help extend the online 'police presence' of the Shenzhen authorities. These cartoons spread across the nation in 2007 reminding internet users that they are being watched and should avoid posting 'sensitive' or 'harmful' material on the internet.[13]

However, Internet content providers have adopted some counter-strategies. One is to post politically sensitive stories and remove them only when the government complains. In the hours or days in which the story is available online, people read it, and by the time the story is taken down, the information is already public. One notable case in which this occurred was in response to a school explosion in 2001, when local officials tried to suppress the fact the explosion resulted from children illegally producing fireworks.[85] By the time local officials forced the story to be removed from the Internet, the news had already been widely disseminated.[citation needed]

In addition, Internet content providers often replace censored forum comments with white space which allows the reader to know that comments critical of the authorities had been submitted, and often to guess what they might have been.

In July 2007, the city of Xiamen announced it would ban anonymous online postings after text messages and online communications were used to rally protests against a proposed chemical plant in the city. Internet users will be required to provide proof of identity when posting messages on the more than 100,000 Web sites registered in Xiamen.[86]

Some hotels in China are also advising internet users to obey local Chinese internet access rules by leaving a list of internet rules and guidelines near the computers. These rules, among other things, forbid linking to politically unacceptable messages, and inform internet users that if they do, they will have to face legal consequences.[87]

In September 2007, some data centers were shut down indiscriminately for providing interactive features such as blogs and forums. CBS reports an estimate that half the interactive sites hosted in China were blocked.[88]

International corporations

One controversial issue is whether foreign companies should supply equipment to the PRC government which may assist in the blocking of sites. Some[who?] argue that it is wrong for companies to profit from censorship including restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Others[who?] argue that equipment being supplied- from companies such as the American based Cisco Systems Inc.- is standard Internet infrastructure equipment and that providing this sort of equipment actually aids the flow of information, and that the PRC is fully able to create its own infrastructure without Western help. By contrast, human rights advocates such as Human Rights Watch and media groups such as Reporters Without Borders argue that if companies stopped contributing to the authorities' censorship efforts, the government could be forced to change.

A similar dilemma is faced by foreign content providers such as Yahoo! (See Shi Tao for more information[89]), AOL, and Skype who abide by PRC government wishes, including having internal content monitors, in order to be able to operate within mainland China. Also, in accordance with mainland Chinese laws, Microsoft began to censor the content of its blog service Windows Live Spaces, arguing that continuing to provide Internet services is more beneficial to the Chinese.[90] Michael Anti, a Chinese journalist whose blog on Windows Live Spaces was removed by Microsoft, agreed that the Chinese are better off with Windows Live Spaces than without it.[91]

The Chinese version of MySpace, launched in April 2007, has many censorship-related differences from other international versions of the service. Discussion forums on topics such as religion and politics are absent and a filtering system that prevents the posting of content about Taiwan independence, the Dalai Lama, Falun Gong, and other "inappropriate topics" has been added.[92] Users are also given the ability to report the "misconduct" of other users for offenses including "endangering national security, leaking state secrets, subverting the government, undermining national unity, spreading rumors or disturbing the social order."[93]

Additionally, reporters in the western media have also suggested that China's internet censorship of foreign websites may also be a means of forcing mainland Chinese users to rely on China's own e-commerce industry, thus self-insulating their economy from the dominance of international corporations.[94]


Legal action

On 9 May 2007, Mr. Yetaai (冬劲) sued Shanghai Telecom, a sub-company of China Telecom, because one of his sites[citation needed] was blocked from access in China. He then took a series of steps including raising maintenance request and notarization. His lawsuit was accepted by Pu Dong Court, Shanghai. Mr. Yetaai reported it through his online diary (English). He also raised an item for online ticketing through an article on Digg.

Liberalization of sexually oriented content

Although restrictions on political information remain strong, several sexually oriented blogs began appearing in early 2004. Women using the web aliases Muzi Mei (木子美) and Zhuying Qingtong (竹影青瞳) wrote online diaries of their sex lives and became minor celebrities. This was widely reported and criticized in mainland Chinese news media, and several of these bloggers' sites have since been blocked in China to this day. This coincided with an artistic nude photography fad (including a self-published book by dancer Tang Jiali) and the appearance of pictures of minimally clad women or even topless photos in a few mainland Chinese newspapers, magazines and websites. Many dating and "adult chat" sites, both Chinese and foreign, have been blocked. Some, however, continue to be accessible although this appears to be due more to the Chinese government's ignorance of their existence than any particular policy of leniency.[citation needed]

Corporate responsibility

On 7 November 2005 an alliance of investors and researchers representing 26 companies in the U.S., Europe and Australia with over US $21 billion in joint assets announced that they were urging businesses to protect freedom of expression and pledged to monitor technology companies that do business in countries violating human rights, such as China. On 21 December 2005 the UN, OSCE and OAS special mandates on freedom of expression called on Internet corporations to "work together ... to resist official attempts to control or restrict use of the Internet." Google finally responded when attacked by hackers rumoured to be hired by the Chinese government by threatening to pull out of China (Newsweek)

Technical efforts at breaking through

The firewall is largely ineffective at preventing the flow of information and is rather easily circumvented by determined parties by using proxy servers outside the firewall.[95] VPN and SSH connections to outside mainland China are not blocked, so circumventing all of the censorship and monitoring features of the Great Firewall of China is trivial for those who have these secure connection methods to computers outside mainland China available to them. However, disruptions of VPN services have been reported.[citation needed]

Since free hosting blog services like Blogger and frequently face blockage, bloggers and webmasters aiming for an audience in China often debate merits of the various paid hosting services.[citation needed] Some China-focused services explicitly offer to change a blog's IP address within 30 minutes if it is blocked by the authorities.[96]

Psiphon is a software project designed by University of Toronto's Citizen Lab under the direction of Professor Ronald Deibert, Director of the Citizen Lab. Psiphon is a circumvention technology that works through social networks of trust and is designed to help Internet users bypass content-filtering systems set up by governments.

"We're aiming at giving people access to sites like Wikipedia," a free, user-maintained online encyclopedia, and other information and news sources, Michael Hull, psiphon's lead engineer, told CBC News Online.[97]

The Tor website is blocked although the Tor network isn't, making Tor (in conjunction with Privoxy) an effective tool for circumvention of the censorship controls if one can acquire it.[citation needed] Tor maintains a public list of entry nodes, so the authorities could easily block it if they had the inclination. According to the sections 6.4 and 7.9, Tor is vulnerable to timing analysis by Chinese authorities, so it allows a breach of anonymity.[98] Thus for the moment, Tor allows uncensored downloads and uploads, although no guarantee can be made with regard to freedom from repercussions. Since 25 September 2009, about 80% of the public relays are blocked by IP address and TCP port combination[99] but Tor users are still connecting to the network through non-public relays (bridges).[100]

As an alternative to Tor, there are various HTTP/HTTPS Tunnel Services.

It was common in the past to use Google's cache feature to view blocked websites. However, this feature of Google seems to be under some level of blocking, as access is now erratic and does not work for blocked websites. Currently the block is mostly circumvented by using proxy servers outside the firewall, and is not difficult to carry out for those determined to do so. Some well-known proxy servers have also been blocked.

Some Chinese citizens used the Google mirror elgooG after China blocked Google.[101] It is believed that elgooG survived the Great Firewall of China because the firewall operators thought that elgooG was not a fully functional version of Google.[citation needed] (This information is out of date, referring to an early blockade of Google in 2002)

There are several techniques (websites and programs) that may be used to browse blocked sites. These include:

  • Ultrareach Ultrasurf also scans for various government and commercial websites from the user's computer, and may be used to monitor dissidents.
  • Gollum
  • picidae
  • Freegate
  • Garden and GTunnel by Garden Networks

Societal and cultural evasion

The Baidu 10 Mythical Creatures, initially a humorous hoax, has become a popular and widespread internet meme in China.[102][103] These hoaxes, ten in number, reportedly originated in response to increasingly pervasive and draconian online censorship and have become an icon of citizens' resistance to censorship.[104][105]

The State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television issued a directive on 30 March 2009 to highlight 31 categories of content prohibited online, including violence, pornography and content which may "incite ethnic discrimination or undermine social stability". Many netizens believe the instruction follows the official embarrassment over the "Grass Mud Horse" and the "River Crab". Industry observers believe that the move was designed to stop the spread of parodies or other comments on politically sensitive issues in the runup to the anniversary of the 4 June Tiananmen Square protests.[106]

See also


  1. ^ "II. How Censorship Works in China: A Brief Overview". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 30 August 2006. 
  2. ^ Chinese Laws and Regulations Regarding Internet
  3. ^ "Freedom House on the Net Report: China". 
  4. ^ Hong Kong Basic Law, Chapter II Article 19
  5. ^ Hong Kong Basic Law, Chapter II Article 18
  6. ^ Watts, Jonathan (14 June 2005). "China's secret Internet police target critics with web of propaganda". London: The Guardian.,12597,1505988,00.html#article_continue. 
  7. ^ Background Global Internet Freedom Consortium (do not download anything from this site – it is a known Trojan supplier)
  8. ^ 1.3 million websites shut in China
  9. ^ Qiu, Jack L. Virtual Censorship in China:Keeping the Gate Between the Cyberspaces. International Journal of Communications Law and Policy. 4. 1999.
  10. ^ Taubman, G. (1998). ‘A not-so world wide web: the Internet, China, and the challenges to non- democratic rule.’ Political Communication. 15, 255–272.
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  102. ^ 【贴图】百度十大神兽_水能载舟亦能煮粥
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