Liu Di (Stainless Steel Mouse) revisited

This article raises an interesting point — that perhaps the uproar over Liu Di, arrested for questioning the CCP’s policies of stifling free speech on the Chinese Internet, has made China’s battle to censor the Net more difficult.

When the state blocks popular search engines such as Google, the ether buzzes openly with criticism. When a government official told a forum on Hainan island in November that the Internet was freer than ever, online bulletin boards blasted him — arguably proving his point.

And when Beijing hauls in people, particularly the growing numbers who are not extremists and don’t know they’re doing anything wrong, officials often hear about it. After Liu’s arrest, thousands of students, journalists and free-expression advocates signed three online petitions — an unthinkable challenge in the past.

“When dissidents disappear, most people think, ‘I’m not one of them,’ ” said Sophie Beach, senior Asia researcher with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. “But when they see someone like Liu Di, they identify and think, ‘That could be me.’ “

The article makes two key points (that are actually kind of contradictory): 1.) The arrest of “cyber-dissidents” and expansion of the censorship bureaucracy have had a chilling effect on Internet users throughout China, many of whom are frightened of writing anything reflecting their personal opinions online. 2.) Nevertheless, the sheer size of the Internet means the CCP’s censorship initiative will ultimately fail.

Despite all its efforts to funnel expression into areas it considers appropriate, however, most experts say China is slowly losing the battle. Online bulletin boards and Web logs are opening vast new areas that further tax the state’s ability to control it all.

Good news. Now if only the government would acknowledge it and stop arresting people for criticizing them online.

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