China Warns Web Media and Bloggers: Beijing is watching.

By Phillip Charlier

Cartoon on Internet censorship in ChinaCartoon by Nicholson from “The Australian” newspaper:

China’s foreign ministry warned Tuesday December 16 that websites referring to Taiwan and China as ‘two independent regions’ are violating the anti-secession law and will be blocked. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jian-chao urged websites to take China’s concern into serious consideration and to help create conditions for sound cooperation between countries and on the Internet.

Also blocked are sites linked to Chinese dissidents, the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement, the Tibetan government-in-exile and those with information on the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

Since earlier this month, a slew of high-profile media sites have been blocked by the Great Firewall of China. These include the Chinese-language versions of BBC World News, Voice of America, Ming Pao News, Apple News Daily, Radio Free Asia and Asia Week. This effectively cuts these web sites off from the largest national readership in the world. China now boasts 253 million Internet users, surpassing that of the United States.

Bloggers will be monitored. The PRC has set up a team to ‘police’ the Internet. They will attempt to remove sensitive content, warn bloggers who ‘cross the line’ and block access to sites that don’t comply.

The move is seen by human rights groups and press advocates as a reversal of earlier policies made in the lead up to the Olympics. “The pretense of liberalization is now over,” Reporters Without Borders said.

Nicholas Bequelin, Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch suggested the Internet restrictions were part of a larger attempt at political control during a period of uncertainty and potential instability. China is facing a serious economic downturn this year, and social unrest has increased.

Recently, a group of writers and academics created a manifesto called ‘Charter 8’ which calls for an end to one party rule. Several of its writers have been arrested and the thought police are rapidly trying to stop its proliferation on the Internet. English translation of the Charter here.

Sources: Xinhua, Reuters, Associated Press, New York Review of Books,