Overcoming Internet Censorship in China
(Minghui.org) Nowadays, many people get their information from the Internet and cannot live without being connected. So much information is available at the tips of our fingers. However, the Internet is not as open and available in China as it is in the Western world.
Over 700 million people use the Internet in China. However, the Chinese government exerts more control over its use than most countries. The government not only blocks websites but also monitors the Internet access of individuals. The combination of legislative and technological measures is known as the Great Firewall of China (GFW).
Information Censorship Under Communist Rule
Keeping information from the public is common practice under communist rule, not just in China. For example, the most disastrous nuclear power plant accident in history took place in Chernobyl in 1986. The Soviet Union did not publicly admit to the accident for almost three days after it happened. Even local officials were not informed of the seriousness of the accident. The release of radioactive material affected not only the Soviet Union but also its neighboring countries, including Sweden, Finland, Greece, Italy, and others.
Of the approximately 600,000 “liquidators” that were engaged in the Chernobyl clean-up, roughly 50,000 were required to work as “bio-robots,” in conditions of such extreme radiation that electronic robots ceased to operate. Many of them have died. Under Soviet rule, the extent of radiation-related health issues was systematically covered up.
Similarly, SARS first appeared in China in November 2002, but Chinese government officials did not inform the World Health Organization until February 2003. By the time the WHO took action, over 500 deaths and an additional 2,000 cases had already occurred worldwide. Many healthcare workers in affected nations risked and lost their lives by treating patients and trying to contain the infection.
In the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, over 90,000 people lost their lives. It is estimated that 9,000 schoolchildren died as their classrooms collapsed on them because of the substandard construction of their schools. However, the Chinese government jailed earthquake activists and imposed media silence as parents sought justice over the collapsed schools.
Because the Chinese government controls all domestic media outlets, facts are often kept from the public. Any attempts to break through the information blockade can have devastating consequences.
On March 5, 2002, several Falun Gong practitioners from Changchun tapped into cable TV networks in the cities of Changchun and Songyuan to broadcast the videos "Falun Dafa Around the World" and "Self-Immolation or Staged Deception." This action to counter the government's hate propaganda is considered the first time that Falun Gong practitioners in China successfully broke through the media blockade.
In the wake of that breach, 5,000 Falun Gong practitioners were arrested, and at least six died in police custody. Mr. Liu Chengjun, one of the key participants, died in prison over a year later, after being brutally tortured.
Great Firewall of China (GFW)
It is not surprising that the Chinese government sees the Internet as a potential threat to its control over its citizens. The GFW was created to censor online content in China. It blocks selected websites, filters keywords out of searches initiated from computers located in China, and requires international online service providers to store their Chinese customer information within China. U.S. trade representatives have stated, “China's filtering of cross-border Internet traffic has posed a significant burden to foreign suppliers.”
According to a Harvard study, at least 18,000 websites are blocked in mainland China, including 12 out of the top 100 global websites. Websites that focus on certain political topics are often censored. Some popular social websites are blocked completely, including Gmail, Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.
One of the purposes of the GFW is to limit and monitor users' online activities. Internet companies are pressured to identify and prevent the transmission of information that the government deems objectionable.
In recent years, more and more Chinese are trying to obtain unfiltered information from the outside world by overcoming the Internet censorship. Many use software that connect to an overseas proxy to bypass the firewall.
Here is one way to download such software:
1. Use an email account outside of China and send an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org with any subject and content (not empty)2. You will receive a reply within 10 minutes with several sites from which to download the software3. Unzip the package and follow the included instructions.