The incredible explosion of the number of users of the Net went hand in hand with the methods of control • The explanations of Caï Chong Guo, political refugee in charge of “http://www.china-labour.org.hk”.
Informations collected by Ludovic Blecher
Monday February 28, 2005 (Liberation.fr – 16:59)©
+119.380.000 Net surfers in eight years: it is the great jump of the Chinese Internet, up from 620.000 Net surfers in 1997 to 120 million users before the end of 2005, according to an official forecast of the Chinese ministry of the Trades of information. As impressive that it is, this estimate is lower than those of independent analysts. Some expect 134 million at the end of 2005. If the use of the Net explodes in China, the network is more and more controlled by Bejing. Caï Chong Guo, 50 years, political refugee in France and person in charge for the site of China Labour Bulletin , an independent group based in Hongkong which follows the evolution of work in China and militates for a free trade unionism, observes the evolution of the Chinese Internet since its beginnings. It answers the questions of Release.
Even under control, the Internet explodes in China…
Yes, there is nearly a 30 % growth each year. The country counts currently more than 100 million users that are regularly connected, with cybercafés everywhere. Even ordinary people have access to the Internet. It should be said that the government strongly encouraged the economic development of the Net as well as other new technologies. It was very rapidly understood as formidable tool of propaganda and control. Thanks to the network, for example, whoever manages to cross customs to Hongkong, Bejing is immediately informed.
Is the Internet less and less free in China?
One can distinguish two stages in the history from the Chinese Internet. Until 2003, a certain freedom of expression could exist, mainly on the forums of discussion. Extremely significant topics like the democracy or the freedom of expression could be approached. The Chinese were also useful themselves of the Net to denounce the corruption of the civils servant. In addition to the forums, some went so far as to create their personal pages and made circulate newsletters. At the beginning, the Chinese government did not know how to control all that. Then, it invested much money and from now on the cyberpolice is everywhere.
Most visible signs?
Very powerful filterings were set up. E-mails may commonly show missing words, looking like a Gruyère cheese: in fact “prohibited” words simply were automatically removed by softwares that scan all mails and eliminate what “disturbs”. The official cyberpolice is relies also on private back-up troops. In the companies, for instance, there are people in charge of taking care of “correct use” of the network. For the companies, it is a question of survival since they are likely to face serious difficulties if it is noted that employees benefit from computer equipement and deliberately surf on sites considered sensitive not to mention publish forbidden content. In addtion to this 'nonprofessional' police force comes a center of denunciation specific to the Internet created at the end of 2003. Result: before 2003, a 'democratic' text could remain 3 to 4 hours on a forum. Now it would be more like ten minutes at most.
Can the Chinese count on external help?
50 million Chinese live in the United States and in Europe. There are hundreds of sites in Chinese outside China, which allowed Chinese from the main land to publish by mail. But technical measurements make it possible today to block the access of such sites from China.
You also note that the field of “deviating contents” broadened…
Now, not only political questions are sanctioned but one cannot speak about the social problems or corruption any more.
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