World’s journalists eye media censorship in China

This long article is a good primer on the state of media censorship in the PRC.

China’s continuous media censorship and a recent apparent upgrade of controls have led to widespread condemnation from media organizations around the world.

There have been a number of recent announcements calling for boycotts and protests against China’s censorship combined with condemnation of western firms that cooperate with the Chinese government. The UK’s National Union of Journalists has called for a boycott of’s products and services, following the company’s cooperation with Chinese authorities on the arrest and imprisonment of Chinese journalist Shi Tao.

The NUJ’s 40,000 members have been using Yahoo for mailing lists and the union decided that because Yahoo was handing over information leading to the arrest and prosecution of journalists, they would boycott the company…

According the NUJ’s release, besides Shi Tao, several other Chinese journalists have been arrested after Yahoo provided information to authorities to help identify dissidents. Jiang Lijun was sentenced to four years in November 2003 after Yahoo provided information that helped identify him. He was sentenced for writing articles that called the Chinese government “autocratic” and said that he favored a western-style democracy, the NUJ said. Another Chinese citizen Li Zhi was sentenced to eight years for discussing pro-democracy issues in a web forum and for emailing pro-democracy campaigners, according to the NUJ.

The most frequently heard response – and one that, ironically, was repeated by Hao Wu himself, who is mentioned in the article – is that it’s mainly outsiders who care about the censorship, and most Chinese couldn’t care less. True, just as most people everywhere don’t really care about much else than their own needs and wants. And censorship is relatively low on most Chinese citizens’ Needs & Wants List. For most Westerners, on the other hand, who were raised from day one believing freedom of speech is just about our most important guaranteed right, the reaction to censorship is predictably more extreme and indignant. But I’ve seen plenty of evidence that plenty of people in China do care about the censorship, many caring about it enough to risk going to prison. (Just today, a reader in China spoke out about this subjecton this site.) I agree with Hao Wu’s key point that ultimately it’s the Chinese who will have to work this issue out, but I also think it’s healthy for the Western media to “go ga-ga” over the issue, just as they have “gone ga-ga” over Hao Wu’s own imprisonment. The world has to know this kind of thing is happening in China if people are to understand what China really is. (At the same time we have to understand that this is not the only thing China is about, and that there have been some incredible changes and improvements there, as this blog often strives to point out. There are no simple explanations for what China is or what it stands for.)

Link via CDT.

Update: Looking back at the rambling nature of that final long paragraph, I offer you all my heartfelt apologies.

The Discussion: 6 Comments

Was watching ‘V for Vendetta’ last night on pirated dvd here and the whole time was wondering what was going through Chinese people’s minds when they saw it–even though its message on censorship was probably more intended for westerners.
(Didn’t finish the movie because the crappy dvd started stalling around the 65th minute or so. Damn)

June 14, 2006 @ 12:13 am | Comment

This sounds horrible, but I’m sure Hao Wu must realise the bitter irony (as you mentioned richard) of his comments on censorship given what’s happening to him now.

What is happening in these cases should demonstrate that it’s ordinary Chinese people that suffer because of these restrictions, not snooty intellectuals, foreigners, etc.

June 14, 2006 @ 8:56 am | Comment

[like all comments by bobby fletcher, this is gone. Long history. Check out his web site sometime.]

June 14, 2006 @ 3:02 pm | Comment

No apology neccessary, I like rambling paragraphs!

I agree that it is a good thing for the Western World to try and shed some light on the situation here in China.
Some really basic fundamental changes have to occur in the thought process of Joe Wang though.
It’s not fair for HaoWu (and others) to take the hit for “doing the right thing” when so many average citizens do little or nothing.
I know this is mostly because they KNOW that they will get beaten, harrassed, or jailed if they do try to “stand up”.
It’s really a complicated situation.

June 14, 2006 @ 9:06 pm | Comment

Yeah Richard, you sound really cool when you ramble!

(Furtively handing Richard some pot under the table….)


June 15, 2006 @ 12:11 am | Comment

A mighty fine rambling indeed.

If the world is going to keep cheering on (and investing in) China, they need to realize that this isn’t any ordinary developing country, and it’s much more complex and dangerous than simply swapping out the US as the hegemon with China…

June 15, 2006 @ 12:57 am | Comment

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