I remember there was a time when a blocking of a site was a covert and dreadful thing. A bit of a sign that you had “made it” as someone fighting the good fight.

“Blocked in China” seemed like such a ‘thing to be’. Sure Amnesty was; and pro dem sites, those were a given. The BBC, meh… ok… they had sneaked some inquisitive reporters into the backwaters and had to be shown a lesson… and well porn – porn is known to melt the eyes of Chinese (it’s genetic). It all made sense.

But now it would seem that in an effort to create a more harmonious society, everything is getting out of tune. There’s not a major free blog provider that hasn’t been blocked:

** I don’t count MSN Spaces (censored), Myspace (blocked) or Facebook as true blogs. Sorry girls and guys that host there.

In addition, the old standbys are still on again, off again. Wikipedia is often a miss (with the Chinese-language version always in the dark), ditto BBC, Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and a collection of other media outlets. You can pretty much assume most anything with the progressively released .tw domain isn’t going to load. Add to this the recent blocking of Flickr‘s photo servers, Yahoo at large and most Google image searches, and it’s not hard to see that life for Chinese netizens (or indeed, laowai netizens) is a right pain in the pìgu.

Check out Wikipedia’s growing list of notable Web sites blocked in the People’s Republic of China.

So, to show we will not stand idly by and watch the net get nannied to nothingness, I say we step up and Block China. To show that you are not happy with all these sites being blocked, and that you don’t buy the ‘official line’ that “[China does] not have restrictions at all.

Show your support by adding your name to the:

BLOCK CHINA PETITION

This petition is in no way political. It is simply a way for us in-China users of the Internet to refuse to sit by and have services we’ve paid for be denied to us for no reason other than the poorly fabricated guise of “cleaning” and “purifying” the Net.

Discussion

28
  1. damn right! it’s getting worse by the week. i’m dreading the day that Net Nanny gets her grisled old claws on Facebook, then i’ll be in cold turkey.

  2. At first I didn’t care. I always use a proxy. But now they are blocking my favorite proxies! It seems every week now I have to find new ways to skirt around the great wall.

  3. Profile photo of

    Yeah, that blocking of proxies sucks. I’ve tried a few times to use proxzee and anonymous, and had no luck either time. Anonymous wasn’t blocked, but the site was still killed.

  4. Nice work mate. Good post.

    FYI, TOR is the best and easiest way to get around the firewall problems. It’s a sweet application and is easy to configue with Firefox. I use it for my blog, and to read other blogs, the news, etc.

  5. I agree that Tor is a great solution – but for the WordPress blogs I’d use this hack for a faster (non-proxy) solution.

    My only problem with Tor, and any proxy for that matter, is that it just slows everything down to a painful speed.

  6. well, i totally understand why they’d f****** blocked all the sites. gweilos are hardly of their concerns – the aim is of course to keep the celestial kingdom sanitised from alien ideas which could include such horrible ideas of freedom of expression and, perhaps more despicable, the ability to think for yourselves. long live the lord protector and the terror! p.s. i;m almost convinced they have special 6th sense abilities when it comes to blocking proxies. weird things happen sometimes and got to make you wonder how the hell they do all that, can’t money be better spent to catch all FLGs at large?! please listen to me, i beg ya, charlie chap peterson.

  7. don’t call attention to the unblocked sites, that’s not a good idea.

    On a similar note, I was preparing to write a short bit on how technorati was finally open to us bloggers stuck in China when it got blocked again. A couple of days ago it was open for like 12 hours.

    First time I was ever able to access it from China.

  8. I’m just as into radical grassroots action as the next guy, but I think your timing for this may be a wee bit off here, Ryan. Wikipedia’s English version’s just been unblocked, and Google image search now seems to work without a hitch. The blogspot block is the most annoying for me, but I still hate to bitch while the reins are just starting to get a bit looser.

    Reminds me of something a prof from Shandong University told about his experience in ’89. He heard a rumor in mid-May that the CPPCC was up in Zhongnanhai discussing reforming the laws to permit greater free speech liberties when the protests started heating up and they got reactionary. This petition might cause the same response IMO.

    Jeff G Deutsch

  9. There’s nothing radical or grassroots about wanting to access the Internet.

    I see your point, but just can’t bring myself to agree with it. The whole “don’t anger the beast, and appreciate what we have” thing is just too hard for me to swallow.

    As for ’89 and all that… lets please not put a minor petition (perfectly legal in the PRC) by a bunch of foreigners about wanting regular access to non-threatening Web sites in the same category as what happened 18 years ago.

    This whole Internet blocking thing is just stupid. There’s nothing devious or evil about the blocks, it’s just misinformed ideas of what free information allows people to do.

    We all know that. We know that by blocking sites it just makes the powers that be look like backwater hicks that don’t understand this darfangled Interwebbie thingamabob, but happen to have hired a few folks that can keep a lid on it.

    It doesn’t protect the people of China from outside influences, it insulates them from the world they need to know about to compete on a global stage.

    It most certainly doesn’t stop the spread of ‘nefarious’ information that could be ‘harmful’. Those people will always find a way.

    So… like I said… stupid. This petition is just a way for us to sign our names in agreement that it’s stupid.

  10. Ryan, I have to contend that there is everything devious or evil about the blocks. They don’t want people to know the real deal about 89 and FLG. Wiki publishes them in Chinese, so does BBC. That is why they are blocked. Bloggers such as chinalawyer gets blocked coz he makes remarks about the PRC legal system and hence implying the government’s lack of control and legitimacy. Most blocks are deliberate and well-calculated. They occasionally grant mercy to certain sites. But even these unblocks are regularly reversed at will. Wiki will very likely get blocked again, like it had happened before. The reason it’s unblocked now is probably related to either the anniversary of HK’s handover or the fact international protest against the PRC’s handing of press freedom and the threats of linking of such with the Games next yr, specially perhaps the campaign launched by Reporters Without Boarders very recently and similar campaigns earlier. So, my conclusion is petition probably won’t work, but hey, why don’t ya try to prove me wrong. I’d be pleasantly surprised if they listened.

  11. Profile photo of Lauren

    Pentawilg: It’s not that the blocks themselves don’t have purpose, it’s that I don’t believe there is some evil madman sitting in his office or around a table with other evil madmen planning the fate of the Internet in a harmonious society.

    It comes out this way, but at the end of the day these are people deciding what gets blocked and what doesn’t. That, more than anything else, is why there seems to be little consistency and a whole lot of randomness to what’s “on” and what’s “off”.

    Again, the petition isn’t political in nature, but only intends to stand as a record for those that disagree with having access to apolitical and non-pornographic sites blocked. Personally I disagree with having anything blocked, but having blocks that don’t fit the “cleaner, less terrorism” purge concept… it’s just annoying.

  12. There isn’t much we can do in China to make them listen. The CCP is the power hegemony inside China so they won’t concede to a few bloggers so easily. On the other hand, the international community at large can certainly do something about it. Perhaps people should start writing to their respective countries to call for boycotting the Beijing Games next years unless freedom of expression is generally protected. That will probably make them shiver. However, I don’t think they’d back off easily.

  13. Who but the evil man sitting in the censorship chair that blocks BBC tv at international compounds 30 seconds into any news clips that refer to politics or anything else less-than-perfection in China then? The point is that they have a clearly defined policy on what kind of things to block. Lots sites are therefore blocked for containing deemed offensive information. I don’t believe you can be non-political if you wish the CCP to grant people in China freedom of expression, which is essentially what the proposed petition is really about. It runs deep in their political instinct to not allow any such changes which might threaten their absolute power in this country to take place. And please, don’t even start talking about harmonious society? What does it mean even? To me, it sounds like the 3-reps much hyped about a few years back. Don’t be an useful idiot, please. No offence.

  14. FYI to anyone that might be interested at all, DD is the Five Gliw guy above. Not without being big-headed about my own influence, I don’t wish to get on the wrong side of the CRP government coz lots which I have and treasure are physically in the country. Also, often when I visit sensitive site using even https proxies, my connection to OFFSHORE sites is mysteriously blocked while many onshore sites can still be accessed, albeit slowly. Who knows where and when BIG BROTHER is watching? Don’t mean to be disrespectful by entering a fake email address on this site, not sure where you’re hosted…. Sorry.

  15. The ’89 reference is a comparison to illustrate the reactionary nature of the Chinese gov’t. I certainly don’t think tanks are going to show up at petition-signers doors. However, Chinese leaders do tend to panic when they see organized resistance to official policies, especially when there are foreigners involved. And the Great Firewall is one of those third rails in China–tied to human rights and free speech–that makes officials go off.

    I think a better approach would be one of your other angles–emphasizing the fact that blocking out what is considered harmful information is also harming the progress of China. I fully believe this. Think about the hours of productivity lost inside this country when somebody looking for a short and sweet explanation of particle acceleration or the history of Mali can’t just hop on Wikipedia to get their information, or the precious information Chinese don’t have access to (including football and rugby news) because they can’t get on BBC.

    Jeff G Deutsch

  16. Profile photo of Sean

    I have to agree with some of the posters above, signing a petition in China is not such a clever thing.

    You are not working with the western institutions that have to deal with petitions and desent in the west. (Not so long ago they too did not deal with it so well either and used strong-arm tactics, but people are myopic and don’t remember what it was like 40-50 years ago) Here at best it will be tossed aside, at worst all the names will be recorded and remembered. What they do with them I am not sure, probably nothing, but why put your head out like that.

    When you ask local people how to effect change in China most will reply that it is the government’s responsibility, not the private citizen. There is something to that I think most can understand in light of modern Chinese history.

    DD is a right, f@#k with the Olympics and you will get change like happened in Sudan. (Not sure if they are doing anything anymore, but they flinched).

    Leninist/Maoist societies cannot flinch, it is a definite sign of weakness and once started, could snowball for them.

    My advise is to use circumventor (Go to http://www.unblock-myspace-peacefire.com to sign up for updates) or if you are any good with computers use the codeen proxy connections through your connections and lan settings menu. a search on google of: Japan, codeen. 3128 is all it usually takes to get the ips. 3128s rock all over Tor, Tor sucks in that it is super slow. It makes me feel like I have a 14.4 modem again.

  17. What I do to help the situation is that whenever I meet any local that shows any interest in knowledge I would let them know about wiki and bbc etc. and show them how to access these sites with my own limited tech ability. There are more people than you’d expect in China, even among the English-speaking educated class, are simply ignorant. Such ignorance is definitely man-made and can be lessened eventually through “enlightenment”, the success of which depends on freedom of speech and will likely affect the fate of the world in the coming decades. Let us all help, one way or the other.

  18. Profile photo of

    I should, again, be clear about something – we’re stupid if we think that anything we say or do on some relatively anonymous blog makes an ounce of difference in Zhongnanhai.

    It, of course, doesn’t. This post and the related “petition” is simply a way for us suffering the blocks to vent.

    There’s a whole lot of paranoia and grand assumptions in this thread, and I’m a bit amazed it went that way. But such as it is… figured I’d be clear.

    @FiveGwilDD: I’ve just no idea what you’re going on about mate. But to answer your question – we’re hosted in the US.

  19. Profile photo of Sean

    @Ryan

    Not trying to be paranoid, just bashed myself up against the rocks too many times and have come to the conclusion that if internet is something that is really important to me i should go home and I have thought about it.

    Venting is cool, but affecting change would be impossible.

  20. How’s your history, peeps? Is there anyone here who knows the background to the Magna Carta? Not the actual document, but the reason why it came to be?

    Take some time to look into it – you may begin to understand why this thread is not a lost cause.

  21. China Radio International publishes newsletters and makes interesting pictures of China for outsiders.

    This is their website:
    http://english.cri.cn/

    If you have the power to change something, I encourage you to go do it. The voiceless has something to say but they are often drowned by those who are the Authority. This concern is not only about Chinese authoritarianism, but even in political and ecumenical settings, such tyranny does rule and suppress those who are powerless.

    The Block China Petition looks good…maybe China should know that such petition exists and she has to think about it and do something about it ASAP.

  22. @Sula: Unfortunately the petition never really got off the ground, and the page it was on has fallen victim to site upgrades.

    However the premise of the post still stands. And though it’s been over a year since the post – little if anything has improved.

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