Good blogging requires lots of surfing, reading, absorbing, rejecting, questioning, checking, picking, choosing and responding, and right now, in my smoky Internet cafe in Guilin, a spectacularly beautiful gem hidden away in Guanxi Province, south China, I can’t do much of any of those things. So please bear with me as this blog continues its holding pattern. The most I can do for now is offer some observations as I travel through the country on my way to Singapore, my new home.
Last night I saw yet another dimension to the evils of China’s censorship machine. I was watching CNN in my hotel when a guest was introduced to discuss how China’s lies about SARS in Beijing were damaging the nation’s political system. This sounded interesting and I sat up to listen. Suddenly, to my utter amazement, the screen went black. It stayed black for about ten minutes with no sound. Then, just as suddenly, the picture and sound came back, just in time for me to hear the announcer thanking the speaker for his time. China is still obsessed with censoring the news and will go to any lengths to keep people in the dark about its crimes, whether we’re talking about Tiananmen Square or SARS.
For anyone who wants to believe that China has actually learned from its experience of the past few weeks, for anyone who wants to believe China now understands how dangerous it is to smother the voices of others and suppress information — I invite you to come to China and see what it is really like. I have tried to give them every benefit of the doubt, and still they emerge as paranoid thugs whose automatic response to criticism and/or scrutiny is to stifle it.
I won’t go into this topic any more, as I am on vacation and want to keep my blood pressure at a safe level. All I can say is that any changes the government is attempting to demonstrate, any new-found spirit of ‘glasnost,” is strictly cosmetic. Same old brutes, same old party.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.