A fine article on Chinese Internet censorship

Although this one from the South China Morning Post offers some interesting information on the specific words the infamous Chinese Net fiulters are poised to capture. And some of the ruses savvy Chinese surfers have adopted to outsmart the Cybernanny are downright hilarious.

Last month, a group of hackers uncovered a file buried within the operating instructions of QQ 2003. The file contains a list of words likely to rile government officials.

About 20 per cent deal with sexual jargon too rude to print in a family newspaper. For Chinese-language students looking to expand their vocabulary of naughty words, this .dll file is a good place to start. (Users of QQ 2003 should search for a document called COMtoolkit.dll. Newer versions of QQ’s program lack the file).

The remainder of the list deals with politically touchy subjects. In the file, not surprisingly, are topics such as Falun Gong, the Tiananmen Square massacre and the independence movements in Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet.

But the file also hints at concerns about the Web being used to spread ultra-nationalism, with references to the Sino-Russian border and territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands.

Many of the words are general, such as “truth” and “idea”, suggesting philosophical discussion is off-limits. Other words include references to official corruption and the cases of political prisoners.

Why some phrases appear on the list – “in October”, “spring in Beijing”, “toad” and “North Korea” – are a complete mystery.

What is also not clear is how the .dll file works. It does not appear to block words from instant messages, suggesting its purpose is to alert officials to the discussion of sensitive topics.

Mainland internet users are aware of what critics have dubbed The Great Firewall of China, leading to the creation of new spellings for names and terms to bypass the censors.

The artfully insulting homonyms include spelling former premier Zhu Rongji’s name so that it reads deaf and deformed pig. Chairman Jiang becomes soy sauce marinated pig daughter-in-law, while Mao Zedong’s moniker is transformed into a vivid description of a toilet.

No one ever accused the Chinese of lack of creativity. I salute their efforts to confound the censors and suspect that no matter how hard the CCP tries to silence the spread of ideas, the Internet will ultimately prove to be key to their steady erosion of power — and ultimately, to their extinction.

The Discussion: 5 Comments

My first hunch after hearing that that .dll file doesn’t block messages with those words is that it sends a message to some government server when one of those key words is used. That would make what QQ is doing way worse than Google’s censoring of their news page.

I’m sure it would be fairly easy for a hacker to find out what happens when you send one of those keywords through the QQ client.

October 6, 2004 @ 11:11 pm | Comment

While [you say] no one ever accused the Chinese of lack of creativity, likewise no one every accused them of efficiency or thoroughness, and that being the case, this problem will probably leak all over itself and evaporate. “Spring in Beijing” is one of the censored phrases? Woh, that is the title of one of my favorite posts.

October 7, 2004 @ 12:20 am | Comment

I’m guessing “Spring in Beijing” is referring to ?g–k‹ž”V?t?h?C which is the name of the most famous Chinese dissident magazine that’s funded by Taiwan, published in the US, and I believe has Wang Dan as its chief editor right now.

October 7, 2004 @ 9:47 am | Comment

Hmmm, the Chinese characters got all mangled in my last comment. It should be “Beijing Zhi Chun”

October 7, 2004 @ 9:50 am | Comment

Well, I guess that accounts for all that government traffic while the post was current. Gee. I thought I had readers.

Spring in Beijing is in the April archives of Crackpot Chronicles–here (no political content, just daydreams)

October 7, 2004 @ 12:57 pm | Comment

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