Sunday, July 22, 2012

Censorship in China

We had never really experienced censorship before, but as soon as we arrived in China, we ran headfirst into China's internet firewall.  We lifted the laptop lid and typed in  Nothing.  Facebook?  Same thing.  All of a sudden censorship was real to us.  The Chinese government was in control of the content that we could see on the internet, including our blog, social media, and certain news websites.

Wi-fi in China -- four bars, no Facebook!

Censorship wasn't limited to the internet either.  On our last day in Beijing we were walking across Tiananmen Square.  In front of us was a guy carrying a small pamphlet in his hand.  A police officer walked up to him, and without a word, took it from him and tore it up.  We couldn't read what it said but can only assume that the paper included some sort of "undesirable" message.  We have even heard stories of Lonely Planet guidebooks being taken, but from what we saw, tourists were mostly ignored.

We anticipated the internet censorship, so before we arrived I subscribed to a VPN that would allow us to get around the firewall.  Basically it works by connecting to a server outside the country (in our case Germany), and routing all of the internet through that server.  The connection is encrypted so it is kind of like a "tunnel" to the outside world.  I think that it will be very hard for China to keep up its internet policies in the long term (Google's CEO recently said the same thing).  It will be difficult to stay in front of new technology even if the people don't demand a change first.


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