Christian Living

chinaconnection 04/02/09

More Internet Crackdowns

It's been quite a year for China Internet watchers, and the number of website closures seems to rise almost as quickly as the number of Internet users.  

Once again, China has called for tighter controls on online videos, especially "harmful" political and religious videos.  Films, television series, cartoons, and documentaries must also get approval from China's State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) in order to air online.

On the one hand, these regulations aren't really inconsistent with the existing standards for film and television on the air, but how on earth will SARFT be able to monitor every online video coming from China?  There's still quite a solid black market for DVDs and VCDs throughout the country, and most of the items sold aren't exactly SARFT-approved.

Targeting the video-sharing services like tudou.com or youku.com is an easy way, and youtube.com has already been blocked in China on multiple occasions.  At the same time, however, there are millions of potential places to post online videos.  This simple principle doesn't keep Chinese leaders from trying to purge the Internet of "offensive materials."     

In this week's press conference with Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang, he was asked, "Is there any particular offensive material on YouTube right now that causes it to be blocked again?"

The final part of his answer, according to the China Digital Times translation, was quite simple: "The Internet in China is fully open and the Chinese government manages the Internet according to the law.  As for what you can and cannot watch, watch what you can watch, and don't watch what you cannot watch."

The statement that China's Internet is "fully open," is hardly without debate.  According to Freedom House's new report entitled "Freedom on the Net," of the 15 countries surveyed, only Cuba had a more restrictive Internet policy.  Even Iran scored slightly better than China, which doesn't exactly support Qin's claim of an open Internet.   

Increased restrictions on online materials also don't exactly back up this claim, either.  At this point, however, it seems that China's Internet officials seem to be more interested in monitoring online content than defending their claims of an open Internet. 

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