This was a day to truly be remembered, as I got to meet an interesting girl and very likely model for the site, if she agrees. This post will need to be full of some feedback, if you please.
If only because there aren’t any known competitors.
Photo and text from here.
As regular readers know, AsiaPundit was recently redesigned.
AP would recommend that others seeking design work do consider approaching our designer Phin and Apothegm Designs. However, after reading the below Reuters report we now regret that no specific instructions were given for improving this site’s Feng Shui.:
A Web site where the colors hurt your eyes, the music offends your ears or has too much information is probably too cluttered and does not give a positive flow of ch’i,” says Vikram Narayan, a Mumbai-based feng shui practitioner.
The trick, Narayan said, is to remove things in your life or on your Web site that serve no purpose, and keep those things that serve you well.
But how does this apply to your Web site?
Experts say using a combination of astrology and numerology, the ancient sciences will help you choose the right colors, font, placement of graphics and navigation bar to make the perfect Web site.
Brijesh Agarwal of Indiamart, a company offering business solutions to small and medium-sized enterprises, says he has had mixed results on the five sites that his company has designed according to vaastu principles.
“We have found that on three sites the number of hits has increased by 60 percent but the other two sites have not been affected,” said Agarwal.
Until this site’s feng shui is improved, AsiaPundit recommends that readers take their own steps to address deficiencies. For instance, if you have not already done so please reposition your monitor so that all windows open facing either east or south (the directions of warmth and good fortune).
(Article via IndianRaj)
AsiaPundit is pleased to announce the commencement of the new round of Asia Blog Awards. The awards are based on the Japanese financial year, which ends on March 31, and nominations are now open for the April 1-June 30 period, full-year awards are to be based on the quarterly contests.
Details are below, nominations for the below categories can be made on the individual pages linked below until the end of June 16 (Samoan time).
Awards are at present limited to English-language or dual-language sites.
Region/Country Specific Blogs:
Non-region specific awards:
Some categories may be deleted or combined if they lack a full slate nominations - and some may be added should it be warranted.
Winners will be judged in equal parts on: (a) votes, (b) technorati ranking and (c) judges’ selection.
While judges will naturally have biases, they will hopefully offset imbalances in other areas (such as inevitable cheating in the voting and inflationary blogroll alliances in the Technorati ranks).
The names or sites of the judges will be public.
Judges will be ineligible for nomination. As the awards largely intend on providing exposure to lesser-known sites of merit, we are hopeful that authors of ‘A-list’ sites that tend to dominate such contests will disqualify themselves by being judges.
The contest has been endorsed by previous ABA host Simon who is also serving as a judge (thereby disqualifying Simon World).
Traffic — the most telling and accurate measure of a site’s populatity — may be a consideration in future awards. However, at present, there is no clear or universal way to accurately measure and contrast traffic (sites such as Sitemeter, Statcounter offer results that cannot be compared, while services such as Alexa.com do not work for sites that are not hosted on independent domains).
This is all imperfect and will be tweaked in future events (with transparency, of course).
Most importantly, this is intended to be fun.
A Chinese blogger recently overtook Boing Boing for the number one place in Technorati. AsiaPundit believes that was is only the first event in China’s comming domination of the medium. As well as arguably bigger numbers, China’s bloggers have more aesthetic appeal.
For instance, high-profile bloggers in the US have been disparaged for being a bunch of guys in pajamas. In China the popularity contests are being won by hot semi-nude women.:
A recent ‘beauty contest’ for female bloggers has attracted huge attention and aroused fierce controversy in China.
The contest has been criticised as “sexist” and “immoral” after some contestants posted nude photographs on their blogs.
In the first stage of BlogChina’s Beautiful Blogger contest, which was held earlier this month, several million Chinese web users voted for female bloggers whose online diaries are hosted on the BlogChina site.
The 20 highest scoring finalists were brought to Beijing to compete in a more traditional beauty contest, for which BlogChina provided free hair styling, make up and beauty treatments.
As well as physical appearance, the contestants were ranked on a variety of other criteria, including the quality of their blog postings and the popularity of their blogs.
The winner, who blogs under the name Yi Lan, is a business student from Beijing. She received a $2,500 prize.
Additional prizes of $1,250 each were awarded in four runner-up categories including ‘most talented blogger’ and ’sexiest blogger’.
BlogChina announced that more than two million people voted to choose the finalists. However, the contest attracted harsh criticism in some quarters, with accusations of sexism and sensationalism from the media and other bloggers.
One finalist, blogging under the unlikely name ‘Hedgehog Mumu’, posted several semi-nude photographs of herself on her blog. She received the most votes in the public voting, but won none of the prizes in the finals.
AsiaPundit regrets to note that Hedgehog MuMu’s site is currently inaccessible — although this may be due to bandwidth pressures rather than censorship. In lieu further story related photos, AsiaPundit will again present pictures of the other MuMu.:
Two of the best China-focused blogs combine for the newest episode of Danwei TV.:
This installment of the Hard Hat Show features Roland Soong of ESWN, guiding us on a short literary quest in Hong Kong.
We are looking for real places that feature in Eileen Chang’s (张爱铃) novella Love in a Fallen City (顷城之恋) which is set in Hong Kong. We find one of them in a rather surprising part of the island.
This is quite a tricky tale to tell in video: it’s about literature and writing, but conveyed with the superficiality of the the moving image. Any mistakes or problems are Danwei’s: Roland was an excellent guide.
Via Singabloodypore, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) have been ordered to remove podcasts from the party website.:
SINGAPORE : The Returning Officer for the General Election has ordered the Singapore Democratic Party to take down audio files and podcasts from its website.
The Elections Department says the podcast contravenes the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations.
It says those found guilty are liable for a fine of up to S$1,000 or imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.
Dr Chee, the SDP’s Secretary-General, had recorded a podcast message and posted it on the party’s website two days ago.
The SDP’s website cannot be considered a blog, and the audio files on its site are not really podcasts. Nevertheless the PAP is making good on its threat to squash political speech in Singapore. The SDP is also making good on its attempt to be the most prosecuted political party is Southeast Asia.
In a related matter, the PBS MediaShift site takes a decent look at political speech in Singapore, including this money quote from Yawning Bread (yawningbread.org).:
“The freedom available to Singaporeans is quite wide,” Au told me via email. “However, there is a climate of fear that the government can clamp down anytime. There have actually been very few instances of arbitrary clamping down, but the fear persists, and thus a lot of people in Singapore, including bloggers, self-censor to some extent. With the passage of time, there is increasing confidence that freedom of speech on the Internet is pretty wide. The more years that pass without incident, the more confidence people gain.”
The article also cites AsiaPundit, somewhat unexpectedly but without causing any offense.
AP would like to clarify that his mention of the word ‘nepotism’ was done to illustrate an example of one of Singapore’s ‘out-of-bounds’ markers and that he was in no way implying that such a thing exists in the Lion City.
To update on a post late Wednesday, MSN Spaces is not being blocked in China and the blog written by Nina Wu, sister of illegally detained filmmaker Hao Wu, is still available.
AsiaPundit received an update from Microsoft on the status of MSN Spaces in China. There was an outage of the service for those who were using China Telecom’s ISP service - but there was no outage for users of CMC and other ISPs. Further, the problem with China Telecom has now been resolved. The above screen shot was taken minutes ago in Shanghai without a proxy.
If authorities were to request a block, it would likely be done by Microsoft at the server level and users in China would receive a notice similar to the one below.
That said, Nina Wu’s post suggesting a block also suggests that other odd incidents are happening.:
Lately, I have not received any replies to the emails I send out. Some “frequently mailed” accounts have stopped communicating. The phone is acting funny too, sometimes it will suddenly stop ringing; sometimes I pick up and no one answers on the other end. I have even been cut-off mid-conversation and heard high-pitched noises. Yet, I am still able to make sense of these disturbances. In the past few days, however, there occurred some really absurd events. I am shocked and confused, I really can’t think of other words to describe the way I feel. Dear God! Please don’t destroy the last dregs of respect that I have for my adversaries.
Is it worth it to go to all this trouble for such a vulnerable and insignificant person as me?
AsiaPundit believes that Nina is under surveillance. However, at the moment, he will suggest that MSN has too much of a presence for authorities to shut the service without causing embarrassment for the Party itself. State media have noted that the MSN service is overtaking local Chinese providers. It isn’t invulnerable, but it would take a severe incident for a shutdown of the service.
AP will now apologize for being a geek. The above is a jargon-filled distraction from the main issue.
Hao Wu is still imprisoned without charge. Tomorrow, he will have been detained for a full two months.
Bill Gates and Chinese President Hu Jintao had a lovely dinner yesterday. And China has pledged to help combat the piracy of the firms products. AsiaPundit wonders, however, what China is doing for the company’s on-line ventures — especially the popular MSN Spaces.
The service, at the moment, is largely inaccessible in Shanghai and Beijing. Trace route tests from Shanghai indicate that access is being lost at the level of the Great Firewall. (click for larger image).
Tests on the Beijing side, however,indicate that the loss of data is occurring at the Microsoft side.:
As well as trace route and ‘ping’ testing, attempts to access through browsers in Beijing and Shanghai — including one by Microsoft’s China spokesman — failed. Access also seems to be unavailable in Haining, said the Unabrewer.
However, AsiaPundit was just told that Microsoft’s engineers could access the site at the China headquarters. If so, this would unlikely be a state-ordered block. If it was, the irony would have been rich.
Hu Jintao and Bill Gates just had a lovely dinner together on Tuesday and apparently struck an amicable friendship.:
While expressing admiration for what Gates has achieved at Microsoft, Hu also added jovially that, “Because you, Mr. Bill Gates, are a friend of China, I’m a friend of Microsoft," according to The Seattle Times.
As well as the friendship with Hu, MSN China is a joint venture between Microsoft and Shanghai Alliance Entertainment, a firm owned by a son of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin. On the face of it, one would think that Microsoft is too well connected to be the target of a Firewall-level block.
Besides, Microsoft will block websites as requested, so there really wouldn’t be a need for any state action against the MSN Spaces service.
AsiaPundit has been told that the company’s technicians are looking into the problem, although clear answers will not likely be available until people start waking up in Redmond. Accidental blocks often occur when website changes are made by content providers, as had happened with the New York Times recently. Sites are also accidently unblocked when changes are made, as happened to TypePad when it changed servers last year.
For now, AP is inclined to believe that the MSN Spaces problem is of a technical nature. That’s a shame. While a Firewall-level block would no doubt be a great disappointment to local users of MSN Spaces, it would also have been a great news story.
Political podcasting and streaming videos are prohibited in Singapore’s coming election.:
Podcasting will not be allowed during elections as it does not fall under the “positive list” which states what is allowed under election advertising.
Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts Balaji Sadasivan added that streaming of videos during campaigning would also be prohibited.
He was addressing a question in Parliament on Monday about the use of new technologies on the internet during hustings.
Pictures of candidates, party histories and manifestos are on the “positive list” and are allowed to be used as election advertising on the internet.
Newer internet tools like podcasting do not fall within this “positive list”.
Dr Balaji said: “There are also some well-known local blogs run by private individuals who have ventured into podcasting. The content of some of these podcasts can be quite entertaining. However, the streaming of explicit political content by individuals during the election period is prohibited under the Election Advertising Regulations. A similar prohibition would apply to the videocasting or video streaming of explicitly political content.”
Bloggers can continue - but if they get too political they will have to register … and then shut up.:
Dr Balaji added that individual bloggers can discuss politics, but have to register with the Media Development Agency if they persistently promote political views.
When registered, they’re then not allowed to advertise during elections - something only political parties, candidates and election agents are allowed to do only.
Before any ‘free speech’ advocates gets in a huff about this - AsiaPundit will note that private citizens will likely be allowed to make political speeches at Speakers’ Corner after registering with police.:
As such, this ban on political blogging is not a ban on free speech. It is merely a means to bridge the digital divide. Singapore’s technology savvy bloggers will now have to queue with their digitally disabled fellow citizens for a chance to talk at the Lion City’s only authorized free speech zone.
The PAP are not oppressive, this is merely a means to bring all Singaporeans together.
Shortly after launching Danwei TV (see episode one and two), Jeremy of Danwei has been invited to participate in a roundtable on PBS’s Frontline. The questions will likely revolve around censorship, although Bingfeng seems to be unable to post the list of questions without his blog service provider’s censorship software kicking in.:
a participant asked me if im interested. i am doing preparations for a vacation and my job keeps me very busy. sorry for light blogging and not being able to participate. i wlll write something on it and keep you updated about the panel discussion.
first round of questions as follows:
sorry, the following warnings repeated when i try to post the questions, which contain some "sensitive words", here, i failed to post the quesitons even after i modified all the "sensitive words".
i will try it later today.
fu*k the censorship system, see you soon.
Post operation failed. The error message related to this problem was as follows: Illegal Characters Found
From Japan, another precautionary tale about how blogging can be hazardous to your job.:
A former police administration officer in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, has been reported to prosecutors for violating the Swords and Firearms Control Law after taking pictures of handguns and using them on his blog.
Whilst on duty in September 2002, the 33-year-old unlocked a firearms cabinet and selected two particularly photogenic weapons, then after surreptitiously taking a few pictures he posted them on his blog – twice as it turns out. Yet despite cleverly applying a mosaic pattern to the photos, a prefectural police worker later recognized the guns and promptly reported his findings.
The unnamed blogger was given a 10 percent pay cut as punishment, but being understandably embarrassed by the whole affair, he resigned on Wednesday, explaining his behaviour by saying, “I posted [the photographs of the guns] because I wanted people to take an interest in the home page.”
Indonesia has a new blog aggregator service.
Bloggers are recalling personal observations of Hao Wu, the blogger and filmmaker who was detained - without charge - by Beijing authorities. Yan at Glutter posts a partial transcript of her recent BBC appearance with Hao and writes.:
On Valentine’s Day UK time. I went on the BBC World Service Radio show "Have Your Say," to discuss Censorship in China. One of the participant named "Tian" was from China. He owns the blog "Beijing or Bust," He is also one of the Editors in the Harvard based Global Voices. His real name is Hao Wu. He was arrested a week later. On the show he said he was interviewing political dissidents, and that is why RSF thinks he was arrested.
I am totally in shock at the moment, so very upset. I thought he was very intelligent, and articulate. I even mused on the blog, that he might not be saying everything he believed in because he might not want the authorities after him… I think he was being careful already, he never said he believed in free speech, he didn’t say anything that was anti the communist government, but he did say something about the project he was working on. Which goes to show, under a totalitarian regime, you never know what one says may interest the authorities.
Please help him. Put up the banner. Write it on the blog. Just let people know.
Lisa at Paper Tiger Tale writes.:
I met Hao Wu a few years ago. At the time he was an aspiring screenwriter working for an internet company. From Sichuan via Beijing, Hao had been in the US for over a decade. He had a screenplay, his first, and needed a collaborator to reshape it into a more commercial structure.
Our collaboration didn’t last all that long. In spite of his inexperience at that time, already it was clear that Hao is a guy with his own vision and a unique way of looking at the world. My only real advice to him was, rather than trying to write something commercial, he should follow his passion, tell a personal story, something true and close to his heart. Mostly, he should keep writing. I was really impressed by the quality of his prose and his insights.
Hao followed his dream in spades. He decided to return to China, to Beijing, to see what had happened to the city he’d once known and experience China’s changes first-hand. He took a month long trip along the Silk Road and sent back regular dispatches. Then he produced his first film, Beijing Or Bust, a documentary about the lives of Chinese Americans trying to navigate contemporary Beijing. He then started a blog by the same title, in which he writes about his own navigations through today’s Beijing. There are some truly wonderful essays: evocative, original and informative, covering aspects of contemporary China that you will rarely find elsewhere….
t’s hard for me to know what to say, except that Hao is a great person, with talent and heart and vision, and that for the Chinese government to detain him is yet another sign of how the CCP still squanders the talent of its own people, how it is destroying China’s future in the name of "social harmony," which more than anything else seems to be a figleaf of ideological cover for the exercise of raw power and untrammeled authority. Hao never challenged the CCP. The only way in which his work could be considered "political" is that he does not censor his own observations, that he thinks freely and isn’t afraid to say what he thinks.
If these are the kinds of characteristics that the Chinese authorities find so threatening that they respond with detentions and repression, then I really do fear for China’s future.Tags: Hao Wu, asia, china, censorship
On March 22nd it will be one month since filmmaker and Global Voices Northeast Asia Editor Hao Wu was detained without charge. We appeal to the Chinese government for Hao Wu’s immediate release!
What happened to Hao?
Hao Wu (Chinese name: 吴皓), a Chinese documentary filmmaker who lived in the U.S. between 1992 and 2004, was detained by the Beijing division of China’s State Security Bureau on the afternoon of Wednesday, Febuary 22, 2006. On that afternoon, Hao had met in Beijing with a congregation of a Christian church not recognized by the Chinese government, as part of the filming of his next documentary.
Hao had also been in phone contact with Gao Zhisheng, a lawyer specializing in human rights cases. Gao confirmed to one of Hao’s friends that the two had been in phone contact and planned to meet on Feb. 22, but that their meeting never took place after Gao advised against it. On Friday, Feb. 24, Hao’s editing equipment and several videotapes were removed from the apartment where he had been staying. Hao has been in touch his family since Feb. 22, but judging from the tone of the conversations, he wasn’t able to speak freely. One of Hao’s friends has been interrogated twice since his detention. Beijing’s Public Security Bureau (the police) has confirmed that Hao has been detained, but have declined to specify the charges against him.
The reason for Hao’s detention is unknown. One of the possibilities is that the authorities who detained Hao want to use him and his video footage to prosecute members of
China’s underground Churches. Hao is an extremely principled individual, who his friends and family believe will resist such a plan. Therefore, we are very concerned about his mental and physical well-being.
More about Hao: From Scientist to Computer Guy to Filmmaker.
Hao began his filmmaking career in 2004, when he gave up his job as a senior product manager at Atlanta-based Earthlink Inc. and returned to China to film Beijing or Bust, a collage of interviews with U.S.-born ethnic Chinese who now live in China’s capital city. Before working for Earthlink, Hao worked as a product manager for Internet portal Excite from 2000 to 2001 in Redwood City, CA Before that, Hao had also worked as a strategic planning and product development director for Merchant Internet Group, an intern for American Express Co. and a molecular biologist with UCB Research Inc.
Hao earned an MBA degree from University of Michigan Business School in May 2000 and a Master of Science in molecular and cell biology in July, 1995 from Brandeis University, where he was awarded a full merit-based scholarship. Before studying in the U.S., Hao earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the China University of Science and Technology in Hefei, Anhui province in June, 1992.
Hao the Blogger.
Hao has also been an active blogger, writing as "Beijing Loafer" on his personal blog, Beijing or Bust, named after his film. Due to Chinese government internet blocking of his blog hosting service Blogger.com, he also has a mirror version of the site on MSN Spaces. In early February Hao began contributing as Northast Asia Editor to Global Voices Online, an international bloggers’ network hosted at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Writing under the pen name Tian Yi, Hao’s contributions aimed to bring citizens’ online voices from China and the rest of North East Asia to readers in the English-speaking world.
Why didn’t we speak out about his detention earlier?
Hao’s family and friends in China have deflected questions about his detention for the past month, as authorities in contact with people close to Hao have urged them not to publicize the case. There had been hope that his detention was only for a short period of time, in which case publicity would not have been helpful.
For more information…
Hao’s family and friends inside China do not want to be interviewed directly by the media at this time, and thus we will not provide journalists with their contact information. We have set up a website dedicated to Hao’s release at: www.freehaowu.org. It will be updated regularly with new information that emerges about Hao’s situation.
All further queries can be e-mailed to: .
(above notice via Rebecca.)
Jeremy at Danwei reviews two very different China-focused cover stories from Time and Newsweek and notes, the revolution will not be blogged.
While Western commentators, including yours truly, love to get excited about censorship and freedom of expression in China, the future happiness of a fifth of the world’s population is likely to depend on a much more basic right: the definition and protection of private property, and especially the when it comes to usage and ownership of land in rural areas.
In which light it is worth comparing recent cover stories of the Asian editions of Time and Newsweek.
The Newsweek cover story about bloggers, by Sarah Schafer, is not bad: Blogger Nation: A proliferation of voices is slowly dismantling the status quo in China.
The cover is reproduced above; note the cover lines: Beijing vs. bloggers.
It’s a shame that whoever wrote and designed that cover decided to go for such sensationalistism.
When you consider that Massage Milk, the star blogger of the piece, continues to says that the recent shutdown of his blog was a joke directed against Western media, you realize that it’s not exactly Beijing vs. bloggers here.
It seems that very, very few people are blogging for revolution or radical change in China.
The real revolution?
Time’s China zeitgeist cover tackles a different issue: the problems of the rural poor. The story, by Hannah Beech, is titled Seeds of fury.
The basic premise is stated in the last line:
"The entire village is doomed anyway. We have no money, no job, no land. There’s nothing left to be scared of." If angry farmers truly lose their sense of fear, it may ultimately be Beijing that is running scared.
As noted earlier, China’s bogging foreign correspondents are having tremendous fun at the National People’s Congress. But while AsiaPundit, Running Dog and Lalaoshi are in hell, AP is pleased to note not only that local reporters feel essentially the same about the event, but also that the local reporter behind Non-Violent Resistance has managed to escape the assignment.:
Been pretty busy lately. I was in a gym on the jogging machine one afternoon a couple of days ago and watching the Foreign Minister’s press conference on TV. Saw quite some familiar journalistic faces in there, and I wondered at my own luck not having to cover this. To me, the NPC/CPPCC annual affair is the most tiresome, boring stuff to cover for a journalist. Fortunately I never really have to do much about it. When I saw economist Justin Lin Yifu mobbed by what looked like a hundred journalists waving recorders and shotgun microphones with that look on their faces that said “whatever you say is news to me!”, I knew it would be exactly the same old s***. OK, I know I am being extreme — there is extremely valuable information one can get from these conferences, but I am just incapable of extracting it from all the sound and fury. One very important journalistic skill missing.
In China private-sector initiatives are often put out of business by other local projects that have tighter connections with authorities - especially state-owned enterprises. Could the same be happening to blogs? Lets hope not.
Danwei reports that three of the top Chinese-language blogs vanished today.
Let’s start with a quote from Liu Zhengrong, deputy chief of the Internet Affairs Bureau of the State Council Information Office, recently published in the China Daily:
Liu … also said Chinese people can access the Web freely, except when blocked from “a very few” foreign websites whose contents mostly involve pornography or terrorism.
This morning, three of China’s best blogs, obviously written by terrorists and pornographers, were deleted.
Two of the disappeared blogs are Massage Milk and Milk Pig, hosted on Yculblog.com. Both blogs currently display the following message:
Due to unavoidable reasons with which everyone is familiar, this blog is temporarily closed.
However, blogs by state-approved NPC delegates have been launched and will surely replace the biting commentary of the now-deleted sites. Here’s an excerpt from an NPC delegate’s blog, it’s not for the faint of heart:
I’m very happy to be able to communicate with internet users through the People’s Daily ‘Strengthen the Country’ blogging platform. As a CPPCC committee member, one must always remember one’s historical responsibility to reflect the interests of the people, to enlighten the people, and to try one’s utmost to promote economic development, fairness and rectitude, and societal harmony.
AsiaPundit is also noticing that China Digital Times is currently unavailable.
Via Peking Duck, who has helpfully republished an un-linkble New York Times item, Nicholas Kristof weighs in on the four best-known companies that are assisting in the censorship of the internet in China, who are now unfortunately being referred to as the ‘Gang of Four.’
Yahoo sold its soul and is a national disgrace. It is still dissembling, and nobody should touch Yahoo until it provides financially for the families of the three men (ed: Three!?! AsiaPundit was still counting two.) it helped lock up and establishes annual fellowships in their names to bring Web journalists to America on study programs.
Microsoft has also been cowardly, but nothing like Yahoo. Microsoft responded to a Chinese request by recently shutting down the outspoken blog of Michael Anti (who now works for the New York Times Beijing bureau). Microsoft also censors sensitive words in the Chinese version of its blog-hosting software; the blogger Rebecca MacKinnon found that it rejected as "prohibited language" the title "I Love Freedom of Speech, Human Rights and Democracy."
Cisco sells equipment to China that is used to maintain censorship controls, but as far as I can tell similar equipment is widely available, including from Chinese companies like Huawei. Cisco also enthusiastically peddles its equipment to the Chinese police. In short, Cisco in China is a bit sleazy but nothing like Yahoo.
Google strikes me as innocent of wrongdoing. True, Google has offered a censored version of its Chinese search engine, which will turn out the kind of results that the Communist Party would like (and thus will not be slowed down by filters and other impediments that now make it unattractive to Chinese users). But Google also kept its unexpurgated (and thus frustratingly slow) Chinese-language search engine available, so in effect its decision gave Chinese Web users more choices rather than fewer.
Kristof is very close to AsiaPundit’s own thinking on this. Google’s move into the China market has received the most attention - in no small part due to the "don’t be evil" target it has tattooed on its forehead. But its actions were the least objectionable. In the context of moves by its predecessors, Google could even be seen as progressive.
Google’s main portal does not redirect to the censored China service and it is more transparent than anyone else in the market about the fact that it censors its China site. Google did not damage freedom of speech or information in China - all it did was damage its brand.
While Yahoo may have been unaware of the implications of its co-operation with Chinese authorities, after Shi Tao and Li Zhi ‘incidents’ it can no longer defend itself by claiming ignorance. It can properly claim that it has no legal liability when future incidents occur due to Alibaba’s ownership of its China operations. As distasteful as that may seem, that is as things should be. Opening a minority shareholder to legal actions would set a dangerous precedent.
But morally, as Yahoo does have a 40 percent holding in Alibaba, in AsiaPundit’s view Yahoo will be 40 percent complicit should journalists or dissidents be jailed in the future.
Michael Anti, translation via ESWN, pens a critique of Congress and defense of Microsoft and Google. However, he does save some venom for Yahoo.:
At the end of my statement, I must state once again that I have mentioned only Microsoft and Google as the American companies, but it is definitely not Yahoo! A company such as Yahoo! which gives up information is unforgivable. It would be for the good of the Chinese netizens if such a company could be shut down or get out of China forever.
(images via Boing Boing)
(UPDATE: Would China better off without the censored Google? For a hint read Google vs Baidu. AsiaPundit thinks ‘Would Google be better off without China?’ is a better question.)
China has responded to international criticism of its internet regulations by saying its rules are “fully in line” with the rest of the world.
Government official Liu Zhengrong said western criticism of China’s internet censorship smacked of double standards.
He also said no one had been arrested just for writing online content.
According to a BBC correspondent in Beijing, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, these assertions contrast sharply with a number of recent cases.
Several people are reported to have been jailed in recent years for posting information on the internet deemed subversive.
“After studying internet legislation in the West, I’ve found we basically have identical legislative objectives and principles,” Mr Liu was quoted as telling the state-run China Daily newspaper on Tuesday.
“It is unfair and smacks of double standards when (foreigners) criticise China for deleting illegal and harmful messages, while it is legal for US websites to do so,” he said.
He also said that only a “very few” foreign websites were blocked, and that was mostly because they contained pornography or terrorist information.
The BBC News website continues to be blocked in China.
And he insisted that “no one in China has been arrested simply because he or she said something on the internet”.
The above story is from the UK’s BBC, which is blocked in China. A version is also available in the China Daily which doesn’t have any of those snarky comments about jailed dissidents or blocked websites. AsiaPundit would have linked to the story on official state news agency Xinhua, but the as he visited the xinhuanet site he was distracted by the pictorial of “flat-chested beauties.”
It’s quite a good spread, although a little tame for Skinhua. Xinhua isn’t porn by any means - they usually digitize any naughty bits that show up in their pictorials (which generally seem to be reproduced without copyright). However, it still runs far racier photos than anything the BBC has on its website.
AsiaPundit wonders what it is that the Beeb has done to get banned in China. It certainly isn’t porn. It must be because of “terrorist information!” AsiaPundit is shocked.
AsiaPundit is completely against terrorism and when he is in Beijing next month he will track down Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and will head-butt that stinkin’ limey terrorist enabler.
A promising new group blog has been founded:
Next week, AsiaPundit hopes to see some frank disclosure about US internet and technology companies activities in China, with the four most-discussed companies being brought before Congressional hearings. AsiaPundit is naturally expecting much bombast and hyperbole as well. The WSJ item below mentions two suggestions from lawmakers: one is reactionary and hopefully a non-starter, but the other is more measured and could have some interesting implications.:
The hearing will likely produce more embarrassing publicity for the companies, and it may drive legislative momentum among lawmakers concerned about China’s influence on the U.S. economy. Congressional aides are expecting a standing-room-only crowd, and the reception from politicians may be chilly.
"I was asked the question the other day, do U.S. corporations have the obligation to promote democracy? That’s the wrong question," says Rep. Chris Smith, the New Jersey Republican and chairman of the House human-rights subcommittee that is holding the hearing. "It would be great if they would promote democracy. But they do have a moral imperative and a duty not to promote dictatorship."
Mr. Smith plans to introduce legislation next week that would impose restrictions on Internet companies seeking to expand into China but also provide some legal protection from Chinese demands.
The bill would require U.S. Internet companies to keep email servers used for Chinese traffic offshore. That would help prevent the Chinese government from compelling the release of Internet user data. The bill also calls for creation of an office inside the State Department that would make an annual determination about which countries are restricting Internet use. It would provide a framework for users to pursue legal action against U.S. Internet companies over privacy violations.
The disclosures about Internet companies cooperating with the Chinese government are having a wider political impact. Last week, Sens. Lindsey Graham, (R., S.C.) and Byron Dorgan (D., N.D.) cited Internet companies’ efforts to help the Chinese government monitor citizens’ online activity as a reason to permanently revoke China’s most-favored-nation trading status.
A removal of China’s trading status, also known as "normal trade relations," is unlikely to happen. And it shouldn’t. China is making progress in meeting most of its WTO commitments and is opening up faster than anticipated in other areas such as financial services. There is a push internally to accelerate opening and sanctions would clearly hurt reformers in China.
Graham - along with Democrat Charles Schumer - has been pushing to put a 27.5% tariff on Chinese goods over charges that the country is a "currency manipulator." There is little doubt that China’s censorship regime concerns Graham, it concerns most people from free countries, but he will take any opportunity to bash China’s MFN status. The latest outburst shouldn’t yet be taken too seriously.
More interesting are Smith’s proposals. AsiaPundit is withholding full judgement on them for now, but based on the one-paragraph description above they seem relatively non-interventionist. Requiring that servers that contain users’ data be kept offshore would indeed directly limit what US companies could do in China. However, this seems to be the route that is now being taken by the companies themselves. Google is not offering Blogger or Gmail for due to privacy concerns and Microsoft’s altered blog-hosting policy is now attempting a compromise solution. After the highly publicized cases of Shi Tao and Li Zhi, Yahoo most certainly regrets establishing its Chinese e-mail service.
The idea of allowing users to pursue legal action against U.S. Internet companies over privacy violations is far more interesting.
On top of providing some measure of redress for those wrongfully jailed, AsiaPundit also assumes such legislation would extend to Chinese companies with US listings. Roland noted that the Nasdaq-listed Sina provided information in the Li case.
US trials are expensive, and verdicts - particularly those delivered by juries - can be crippling. There are a number of Chinese internet companies already listed in the US and others, such as blog service provider Bokee, that are known to be seeking listings.
Things to consider: Could such a law scare some new listings away from US markets? Also, would its implementation force some interesting disclosures from Sina and others? If providing user information to authorities created significant financial risks, US-listed Chinese companies would surely be required to inform shareholders. This could move things beyond the realm of tech companies and NGOs and into the realm of trial lawyers and investment banks (hence the title of the this post).
Expect much chest thumping from Congress, defensiveness from the search engines and lobbying from everyone.
Silicon Hutong: Time for a Solution
ESWN: The Third Way for Yahoo
China Digital News linked to this Chinese journalist’s blog only a couple of days ago. I could log on it yesterday, but today I see this. Apparently it’s only blocked in China, as MSN has promised.
Things are getting crazier by the day.
I wonder if language is my only layer of protection right now. Maybe I’ll be taken offline soon too.
This is how MSN’s new policy on censoring blogs is being practiced. The company will no longer erase a blog, as it did with Michael Anti’s site. It will only block it in the country where the government has requested a block. This is a step up, as users can still see the site through a proxy and as postings can be retrieved and placed elsewhere. AsiaPundit does hope that MSN will not be collecting the IP address and user details if the author chooses to do so.
Still, it would have been nice if Microsoft displayed the above notice in Chinese. That keeps the company still a few notches below Google, which does display its censorship notice in the local language.
(UPDATE: MSN does display a notice in Chinese.).
As AsiaPundit has mentioned earlier, the cooperation of internet companies in China’s censorship is only marginally upsetting. Users can still access the ‘real’ Google and more importantly the real simplified-Chinese Google, MSN Spaces still provides room for expression - even if the company did delete and now blocks blogs by the request of the state.
The thing that upsets AsiaPundit is that these moves are assisting in a greater evil, that which is the Chinese government’s attempt to muzzle an emerging critical press. With the shutdown of Michael Anti’s site, the block on the above site and the jailing of Shi Tao — something that is completely unforgivable — the targets were the domestic press.
The local press is where positive change will come from in China. A vibrant domestic press is more important than an unfiltered Google, or Microsoft, or Yahoo, although that would be welcome. The domestic press is what is read in China, and change will not come because of news articles by the BBC, NYT or my own agency, although these too are welcome. Change will certainly not come from US bloggers who seem more interested in picking on Google than they are in talking about the actual situation of the press in China. But AsiaPundit imagines that the CCP is less of a threat to Pajamas Media advertising revenue than AdSense is.
That internet portals are censoring themselves is bad, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. This is the true Evil!
Announcement of Beijing Municipal Administration Office of Internet Propaganda
The media listed below are frequently chosen as sources for internet website, but they are currently not legally allowed to be copied. Please do not copy current news and politics from those media. Please especially keep away from copying them in the front page or headline areas.
We understand that the current limits on copying news are not easy to implement, but before we find better solutions, please cooperate with us. We will also keep guard for you, and penalize each of those sites that we find fail to follow the rules.
The Huashang Daily, The Chinese Business Morning View (Hua Shang Chen Bao), The Jiefang Daily Online–Shanghai Morning Post (Xin Wen Chen Bao), The Jin Chu Online-Chu Tian Metropolitan News (Chu Tian Du Shi Bao), The Bei Guo Online—Ban Dao Chen Bao, The Star Daily (Bei Jing Yu Le Xin Bao), The International Herald Leader (Guo Ji Xian Qu Dao Bao), The China Business News (Di Yi Cai Jing Ri Bao), The Hua Xia Jing Wei Online, The China Taiwan Online, Chongqing Morning News (Chongqing Chen Bao), The Oriental Morning Post (Dong Fang Zao Bao), Chongqing Business News (Chong Qing Shang Bao ), The First (Jing Bao), YNET.com (Bei Qing Wang), The Legal Evening News (Fa Zhi Wan Bao), The Today Morning News (Jin Ri Zao Bao), The Southern Metropolitan News (Nan Fang Du Shi Bao), Chengdu Evening News, Lanzhou Morning News, Haixia Dushi Bao.
There was indication that this was imminent in yesterday’s South China Morning Post:
Mainland internet companies are expecting new controls over their content that would prevent them from posting political and current affairs articles published by metropolitan newspapers on their websites, sources said.
But articles from magazines and party newspapers would be exempt from the soon-to-be-announced directives, the sources said, adding that metropolitan newspapers were targeted probably because they ran more negative news.
"Sohu will be the most affected because it focuses on domestic news, while Sina will be affected to a lesser extent because it carries more international news. Netease will also be affected because it needs local content to fill its news packages," one source said, referring to three of the mainland’s most popular news portals.
An outspoken journalism professor, who had been warned not to speak to foreign reporters, said he was not aware of the new policy, but described it as "beyond comprehension" and against the trend of the mainland’s economic openness.
"Portals cannot help but respect the rule, but in the longer term, such controls will not work because they go against the trend of economic opening-up," he said.
"We have to work for greater openness otherwise [the whole system] will break down."
AsiaPundit is thankful that, for the moment, the newspapers have been blocked from reproduction by the portals rather than shut. And Interfax notes an upside, both from the local press and from the internet.:
Most news published on the country’s top portals consists of republished reports from Chinese newspapers, not news written by the portals own staffers. By republishing stories on the Internet a report published in a regional newspaper can receive national attention.
The circular was originally leaked by a popular Chinese journalist blogger. Chinese journalists are increasingly turning to blogs and email to publish news that would otherwise not be published. It is likely that this new rule will only strengthen this trend, and will increase blog traffic to the detriment of China’s top portals, many of which are listed abroad.
China has shown a sharp downward trend in press freedoms last year, while the Philippines remains dangerous and North Korea abysmal.:
While some countries in Asia have remained stable with regard to media freedom, there have been sharp downward trends in several Asian countries, particularly China, Nepal, the Philippines and Thailand.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Freedom House, a non-governmental organization that monitors press freedoms around the world, assessed the levels of press freedom in countries based on the prevailing legal environment, political and economic situation and the overall attitudes of authorities towards the media.
The surveys were generally concordant in their results, with China, Nepal, North Korea and the Philippines remaining the biggest causes of concern for journalists in Asia.
"Compared to last year, there really aren’t many positives in Asia," said Karin Karlekar, Managing Editor of the Freedom House survey. "While some countries have remained steady [Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong], we can see downward trends in many countries in the region."
North Korea was found to be the worst country in all surveys, showing no signs of improvement over the past couple of years. All media in North Korea continue to remain tools of Kim Jong-il’s state, while all foreign media are repeatedly portrayed by the regime as "liars" seeking to destabilize the government, according to the Freedom House report. However, the report also suggests that an increase in international trade has resulted in greater contact with foreigners, which might allow for greater access to international news reports in the near future.
China has also shown a sharp downward trend in 2005, said Karlekar, which can be attributed to increased censorship of newspapers and radio stations, and greater Internet surveillance.
According to RSF, the so-called "broadcasting Great Wall" in China has been growing over the past year: The Voice of Tibet, the BBC and Radio Free Asia are among the radio stations jammed by the government in 2005.
At We Make Money Not Art, excerpts from a discussion of the internet and social networking in China.:
There’s over 100 million users of internet in China, making it the country with the most internet users in the world. The typical net surfer used to be male, urban, high-educated, in his 20-30. It’s becoming less so. Active bottom up. Now more women and less educated people are catching up.
How people use the internet: in China there’s a very lively amateur culture. What’s different in China from other parts of the world is the huge sense of humour when writing about daily life and world/national events.
Many people make and exchange flash movies, swap lots of files. Commercial portal are thriving (big portals dealing with celebrities for example) but e-commerce hasn’t taken off yet.
The Middle Landscape. The internet has become a middle landscape between the public sphere and the commercial sphere. These two separate realms merge on the internet. On blogs and bulletin boards that mostly discuss commercial matters, someone might start a discussion on a recent event (like a murder hidden by the authorities) and a long discussion will start.
The Middle Landscape in another sense: the internet as a middle landscape between the private and the public sphere. Bloggers and wikipedians against the governement. Governement is loosing control over the private domain (in the past, employees had to get an authorisation to get married, it’s no longer the case.) The internet is very hard to control although there are rules to restrict what people can write. If you want to open a blog you have to give your name and address. Companies like Google, Microsoft or Cisco, help the governement to shut up the voices and restrict the new freedom.
On the other hand, Chinese have now a service they didn’t have before. For each new rules imposed by the government, bloggers and wikipedians make a counter attack.
The Social Brain Foundation is inviting people in the West to adopt a Chinese blog on their personal web server to make it harder to control or block the blogs (only i found).
Are public sphere and civil society emerging? De Waal asked several actors whom have different perspectives.
Jack Qiu: no, we’re not seeing this promised new freedom. In China, internet is given as a toy to people to play with, not to provide them with more possibilities of expression.
Michael Anti (who had his weblog shut down by the governement): yes, there’s a gradual development. People are willing to see things change even if the governement doesn’t agree.
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