China has released from prison early a prominent dissident jailed in 2005 for leaking state secrets, Human Rights in China reports. Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years in prison after the global IT firm Yahoo helped the Communist authorities to identify him.
Over the last several months, state media has urged influential users — so-called “Big Vs,” because they have verified accounts — to “follow the bottom line,” i.e., the Party line. To prove its point, two weeks ago authorities arrested the Chinese-American critic Charles Xue and subjected him to a humiliating media campaign, in which he was accused of sexual deviance and soliciting prostitutes.
China’s biggest internet companies have joined in the campaign to eradicate “rumors” online, further showing the government’s desire to take control of the freewheeling conversation among China’s 500 million web users.
“Shi Tao’s arrest and imprisonment, because of the actions of Yahoo China, signaled a decade ago the challenges to freedom of expression of internet surveillance and privacy that we are now dealing with,” said PEN International’s Fraser.
China Digital Times’s Xiao Qiang was interviewed on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered about the coded language Chinese netizens use to evade Internet censorship:
LYDEN: So let’s start with the sense of what this massive Internet usage is like in China. What if I want to go to, say, a forbidden site – not just having my books delivered by Amazon but maybe books people don’t want me reading – how much of the Internet is available that way?
QIANG: We often hear the name Great Firewall. If we want to be more precise, this term particularly refer to blocking websites from outside of China at a national gateway level. Inside of Chinese Internet, there’s whole different layers of the censorship by a top unit called propaganda department. Inside of China, that’s where the most actually dynamic content is being generated and sometimes even about political system and political reform itself. It has gone way beyond of just political activists. It’s a common discussion.
Despite all the control and monitoring of the government, there’s a fundamental desire of the people who simply want to express themselves. And if they cannot speak directly, they will speak in alternative ways. [Source]
For more about Chinese netizen language, download CDT’s new eBook, Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, which introduces the “classic terms” created by Internet users to discuss politics online.