Feeds

Beijing removes all online mentions of fleeing activist Chen

'According to relevant laws ... these search results cannot be shown'

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

China’s online censorship machine flew into overdrive at the weekend to remove all mention of blind human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who fled house arrest and is reportedly now under protection in the US embassy in Beijing.

Guangcheng, who has been a vocal campaigner against China’s oppressive one-child policy and has become an international symbol against the government’s human rights abuses, made a carefully planned break for it around a week ago, aided by a small network of supporters who now risk torture as the authorities try and find out what happened.

Leaving his wife and young daughter behind, the self-taught lawyer reportedly managed to scale a wall and evade the guards who have kept him confined to his Shandong province farmhouse for the past 19-odd months.

If he is now in US protection, the matter has already become a huge embarrassment to China and represents a massive loss of face – something the Party has already sought to minimise by removing all mentions of Chen from the web.

David Bandurski, a researcher at Hong Kong University, explained on the China Media Project blog that there has been no reference to the story – now making headlines across the globe – on China’s state-run media channels, while most search terms relating to the case are being blocked on social media.

The authorities are clearly erring on the side of caution, banning terms such as “blind person”, “embassy”, “consulate” and even the initials of his name, Bandurski explained.

On one of the country’s most popular Twitter-like services, Sina Weibo, the searches will bring up a standard message: “According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, these search results cannot be shown.”

“If Chen Guangcheng is indeed under U.S. protection, the delicate matter of Chen’s escape (already potentially damaging in light of the constant refusal of Chinese officials to deal with clear and systematic abuses) has now become a major diplomatic matter,” said Bandurski.

“The sensitivity of the Chen Guangcheng story can be glimpsed today both in the total blanket of silence that has enveloped Chinese traditional media, and in the robustness of social media controls.”

While web censorship is a fact of life in China, the extent to which it occurs is largely hidden from ordinary citizens. Only those who have the know-how and inclination to set up a VPN to bypass the Great Firewall will get a clearer picture.

As the recent case of deposed Politburo member Bo Xilai highlighted, the Party is particularly keen to avoid any social or political unrest ahead of its once-in-a-decade leadership handover next year.

Former Beijing bureau chief for CNN and censorship expert, Rebecca MacKinnon, told The Reg that since the Olympics in 2008 the authorities have progressively stepped up web blocking.

“Things do go in cycles of loosening and tightening, but I think the overall trend is of tightening,” she said. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
DVLA website GOES TITSUP on day paper car tax discs retire
Welcome to GOV.UK - digital by de ... FAULT
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.