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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Monday, March 01, 2004

China and The Internet

China Study Group

The above linked article on a great little "China" site China Study Group talks about the growth of the Internet in China and the continuing struggle the authorities have to censor it.

The figures are staggering to say the least.

"China is second only to the US for the number of people online. The number of users rose to 79.5 million by December 2003 from 59.1 million in December 2002 -- up by 34.5 percent" the article states.

Of course the Internet is really a greater threat to authoritarian rule in China then is religion which they seem, at this stage, to fear more.

Whereas religion was once the "Opiate of the people" in China's case at least the Internet now has that distinction.

I think there are no other peoples, with the possible exception of the Indians, who attack the internet with such gusto. The US may have more users but I bet that in hours online per head of users then the US would come a long way short.

Why is this so?

Well I think it gives the Chinese citizen a feeling of freedom just to be online chatting to someone from outside China. It is not, in my estimation, an information gathering process because in my many online chats with people in China ,be they Han, Uygur or Kazakh, they show surprisingly little interest in either you as a person, your country or your culture. I think they simply like knowing they are speaking to someone from "outside" and perhaps enjoying the thrill of a minor "freedom".

As people's disposable income increases in China so to will the online users at an exponential rate.

I think it is a sign of desperation when the Chinese Cultural Minister Sun Jiazheng is calling for Internet Cafe owners to become policemen ( they already are in Xinjiang) or alternatively collectivising the industry.

It just can not be controlled. As regular readers of the Uygur Letter will know I have been banned from being viewed in China for my uygurWorld website and this blog. As well they have obviously banned my IP address from accessing the Xinhua news site. But that can be easily circumvented.

Recently I changed domain name for my uygurWORLD site and I went unnoticed for two weks until the new site started showing up in search engine results then they zapped me again. Essentially then any webmaster intent on being seen in China just needs to keep changing domain names which is not hard with the multitude of free web hosts around.

The "Letter" has never been viewed in China as it is my understanding that "Blogger" ,my blog host, is banned in toto so even blogs about butterflies will not be seen. But I am sure for the inventive person sites like this could get through.

So they are kidding themselves that even with a reputed 30,000 internet censorship employees and even with every Internet cafe owner being right on his guard that they can control it.

As such, in one hundred years when the history of China is being looked at, the internet and not religion, will be seen as the most important catalyst of social change in China.

The fact that you are reading this now attests to that