I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about China’s closure of Michael Anti’s blog on MSN Spaces. It makes me too sick, and it is New Year’s Eve. Letters from China has done an fine job covering the fall of the Beijing News, and he also links to some absolutely indispensable translations from ESWN. Those posts from Beijing News workers can literally make you cry.
In a thread below on the greatness of Chairman Mao, some commenters are insisting China’s media is improving and gaining new freedoms, and they hailed China’s toleration of bloggers critical of the government. I think today there’s precious little wind in their sails, except pure hot air.
China’s making progress in some ways, but in others it’s still in the dark ages, and is just as bad as any police state. You won’t see this when you travel there as a tourist. You won’t see it in the faces of the happy nouveau middle-class Beijingers window-shopping along Wangfujing. But it’s there beneath the surface, waiting to assert its muscle on those who have the temerity to ask questions or fight for greater rights.
Reading those ESWN translations, I felt what little hope I still held for the government slip away. It’s got no heart, no soul and no conscience. The people who wrote the words are so beautiful, and they deserve so much better.
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.