The People’s Republic of China is one of the largest and most populated countries globally. As its economic and political power increases, so does need to control and regulate information flow and content. Recent statistics indicate that there are more than 380 television stations, 170 million Internet users, and 8300 magazines readers in China today. China has remarkably advanced its terms of technology. The country is considered as an upcoming technology hub and, with several global enterprises relocating to the country, its advancement is presumed to remain on course. The government of China still maintains the communist policies, which are decades old. With the introduction of Internet, China has done little to ensure that its citizens enjoy maximum benefits that are associated with it. While the constitution of China allows freedom of expression and speech, the government has the ultimate control of information flow in and out of China. Media censorship in China received global attention when a jailed Chinese activist, Liu Xiaobo, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Nature and Extent of Censorship in China
China is characterized by her communist rule, and the government has had tremendous control of the country’s culture and mass media. In mid 1950s, the state had ultimate control of what type and content of information could be accessed by the public. Censorship is the control and withdrawal of crucial information from the public by a controlling body or group. It comes in various forms, including forbidding people to express their opinions over the Internet, printing, and even owning some books and articles. Globalization has made it possible for individuals across the globe to transmit information at high speed and with lowered costs. However, people use such arenas to spread rumors and misinform others thus causing security concerns in the countries that such communications take place.
Governments have different reasons for censoring information in their countries. Some censor information out of genuine concern of the impacts such information would have on the security of the citizens. However, some governments censor information with ulterior motives, not with the best interests of its citizens at heart. They do so to maliciously block crucial information flow to its citizens. This is because they feel threatened with what would happen if the masses got hold of sensitive information. China has censored most of the media, social networks, and Internet usage. The most important media ownership continues to be in the hands of the state. China citizens and media houses are expected to follow state rules that require them to comply with stringent censorship measures. For instance, in May 2010, the government issued a white paper that dictated how the Internet ought to be utilized. “Internet sovereignty,” as it was famously called, required that all Internet users inclusive of foreign individuals and organizations to abide by Chinese regulations and laws.
Any person intending to disclose sensitive information must first obtain legal authorization from the government. Subversive materials posted on the website may result to the closure of the website and, at times, lead to the arrest of its authors. In China, unlike in most of the countries, the news and discussions relating to the Arab uprising were sharply truncated. The word “Egypt” was considered as a sensitive word and was deleted from the Internet and no information about Egypt could be obtained from the Internet. By censoring the Internet and the media, the Chinese government is able to control and monitor how information and opinions flows to its citizens. In this regard, the Chinese and foreign nationals are deprived of crucial information related to public health, social affairs, governance, and a wide range of other items.
The People’s Republic of China has among the most stringent Internet censorships in the world. The government in that country blocks Web sites and any other online avenue that discuss political and cultural issues. Such websites include those that centers on the Dalai Lama and his views. In fact, since the 1989 political crackdown in and around Tiananmen Square, political protests and spiritual movements were banned and, of late, especially on the Internet. China regards the Internet to be an avenue that the western powers sponsor for instigating opposition. In addition, it views Internet as a tool used to glorify the communist party and capitalism. The government believes that the Internet may expose Chinese citizens to press materials that contradict China laws, values, and, believes.
In fact, the Chinese authorities view the revolts in North Africa and the Middle East as efforts that were organized abroad and circulated via the Internet to instigate protests. In this regard, the Chinese government has been tightening the grip on the electronic communications and, indeed; it appears to be determined to enhance monitoring of cell phone calls, emails communications, electronic messages, as well as the Internet access to smother the hints or rebellion or antigovernment sentiments. In 2007, authorities put on notice all those using text-messaging services to spread rumors that would pose a danger the national security.
The government utilizes its computers to intercept all incoming data for comparing it against an ever-varying list of the banned Websites and keywords. Of late, the authorities have been screening out too much information that it is difficult for people not to react. Their motive is obvious, for instance, since the late 2010; the government censors have been preventing Google searches for such English terms as “freedom” and “justice.” In the month of March 2011, companies such as Google accused the government of China of attempting to disrupt such services as Gmail.
In January, Gmail accounts belonging to activists, reporters, and army personnel were hacked and their contents deleted China has automated mechanisms to filter out sensitive information. These mechanisms monitor online activities and delete any information that draws the attention of Internet users. Facebook and twitter are closely monitored in China. For instance, facebook automatically removes contents that can incite the masses or has immoral materials. The government has not yet closed down these social media sites, as it would have devastating backlash. Instead, the government is using social media proactively by creating its own accounts. This way, they can closely follow the current trends and what people think about the governance of the country.
Global Internet corporations have a contractual agreement, which grants them the opportunity to operate in China only if they censor their users. China laws require that these corporations cooperate with the authorities in investigations into leaks of state secrets. Chinese Internet corporations such as Baidu and Sohu also censor Internet information accessible to its users. Furthermore, the government owns these corporations making it have ultimate control of its contents. Names of political activists have gradually been deleted from the Chinese Internet. That way the Internet does not show any results of the searched information. At times, the users are automatically redirected to the government website or results in an error message. The government also encourages its citizens to arrest Internet users who post offensive messages in the web. In 2011, there was an increasing number of cases concerning cyber attacks and cyber hacking. All these were believed to be China’s government ploy to take control of Internet use.
Therefore, the Chinese government made people believes that it was not to blame for the problem. Similarly, several popular and influential virtual private-networks that had been designed in a manner that evaded the government’s censors have been grounded. In China, unlike several other countries where the Internet is freely accessible, virtue private-networks are tremendously popular as the country’s large expatriate community as well as the home based entrepreneurs, scholars, and researchers who expect to utilize the Internet freely.
The Chinese government has also gone a notch higher by pressing criminal charges to bloggers and online activists. Blogging services are used as an avenue for public opinion. In 2011, china had approximately 200 million bloggers. Special committees track bloggers who discuss sensitive topics and those who highlight explosive scandals. Bloggers believed to be writing on offensive material are subjected to harsh and violent conditions, which in severe conditions may lead to loss of life. For instance, a reporter in Beijing was beaten to death for reporting on food safety scandals, police abuse, corruption. Other ways of gagging reporters include demotions or suspensions, closure of their outlets, and heavy fines to law breakers.
In addition, the government bans any songs and television shows that they deem inappropriate. Recently, Rolling Stones songs, a rock ban, were banned from the china media houses as they were seen as inappropriate. In addition, police and detective drama shows were banned for three months to allow for wholesome Television shows, which do not influence people’s way of thinking. Sexual shows were also removed off air since they were considered as immoral. “If You Are the One” show was banned since they insinuate sexual innuendo. While at any cyber café, users must produce their identifications before they can access Internet services. This way, the government can track down on any suspicious characters.
Censorship is the government’s way of isolating the country from the rest of the world. It does so by making it difficult for outsiders to access information about the country. Getting interviews in the country is almost an impossible task for foreign reporters. The reception of internal radio stations is also highly curtailed. This way, the government manages cut the spread of information. The government is continually developing the most complex monitoring networks in the world such as the “Great Firewall.” The firewall physically monitors information coming in and out the country. Currently, the ministry of defense monitors the country’s Internet. Unwarranted censorship violates citizens’ freedom of expressions while arbitrary detention of web users violates the basic human basic human rights.
The government of China employs laws and local departments to regulate the flow of information among its citizens. The General Administration of press and publication ensures that censorship and regulation rules are followed to the letter and that no offensive materials find its way to the public. The body is also responsible to screen books and ban offensive electronic materials. The State administration of radio, film, and television regulate the content of all forms of media including television, satellite, Internet, and radio. The People’s Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper, determines the issues that can be discussed and from what angle these issues can be discussed. The paper rarely writes articles focusing on human rights, democracy, and other social injustices that face China citizens. The ministry of public responsibility is responsible for filtering and monitoring the Internet. The central propaganda department material meant to be printed. It ensures that the intended print does not contradict with central party policies. The policies constantly remind Internet users that the state is closely scrutinizing their Internet activities. These bodies are just but a few of China’s departments meant to regulate censorship regulations.
International bodies protecting human rights have fought foot and nail with the Chinese government on censorship issues. For instance, Amnesty International has been on the forefront in advocating for censorship suspension in the country. In addition, it pressures the government to release immediately imprisoned Internet users in the country. Amnesty International refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article, states that everyone has the right to express his or her opinions. The article further states that a person has a right to access information concerning both his country other countries International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights declares that an individual has a right to receive or send information, either electronically or orally to any part of the world. A person also has the freedom to use whatever medium through which to transmit their opinions. China’s censorship is a direct violation of the above-mentioned Acts.
In conclusion, without free flow of information and transparency, the Chinese government continues to oppress its citizens and deprive them of their basic human rights. Their freedom of expression remains gagged and this situation which is set to persist until the government lifts its ban on censorship. The true nature of China will remain hidden from the rest of the world. The voices of those whose rights are violated will never be disclosed in totality to the outside world. These forms of censorships are presumed by the rest of the world to be violations of human rights. The world nations and human rights organizations ought to come forward and pressure China to loosen its grasps on media. They ought to keep insisting that the Chinese are part of the global community and, as such, the authorities should let the citizens enjoy the freedom of expression and complete access to information.