China: Journey to the Heart of Internet Censorship

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Journey to the heart of Internet censorship

Investigative report

– October 2007 –

This report was written by a Chinese technician working for an Internet company who uses the pen name “Mr. Tao” with support from Reporters Without Borders and Chinese Human Rights Defenders.


Use of the Internet is continuing to spread in China. According to the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC), the number of Internet users reached 162 million, or 12.3 per cent of the population, on 1 July. A total of 1.3 million Chinese websites have been listed. And 19 per cent of China’s Internet users have their own blog.
To maintain its grip on power, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has always controlled all the traditional news media (print media, radio and TV), banning independent news and information and foreign participation. But the government has seen its control eroded by the Internet’s emergence. The Internet is the first medium to offer the public a direct means of expressing itself. But that does not mean that China’s many privately-owned news websites are free. They, too, must submit to censorship and must practice self-censorship to avoid being quickly banned.

The government monitors the Internet by means of a skilful mix of filtering technologies, cyber-police surveillance and propaganda, in all of which China invests massively. Draconian censorship hunts down anything to do with human rights, democracy and freedom of belief. It nips free expression in the bud.

The victims of this censorship, the Internet users and bloggers, have sometimes rebelled, going to so far as to file complaints against hosting service providers. This is what He Weifang, Pu Zhiqiang, Xiao Han and Xu Zhiyong did when their blogs were blocked by Sina. In theory, the Chinese constitution protects basic freedoms against the many regulations that impose severe restrictions on online media and the sites of non-governmental organisations.

This report by a Chinese technician working in the Internet sector is an unprecedented journey to the heart of a system of censorship that knows no parallel. China is the only country in the world to have tens of thousands of cyber-censors and cyber-police. They have had special sections in every local Public Security Bureau for the past few years. Although their activities are a well-kept state secret, this report reveals their impressive ability to purge the Internet of news and information that embarrass the government. The cyber-police have been involved in the arrest of several hundred Internet users and cyber-dissidents in the past 10 years.

With less than a year to go to the Beijing Olympic Games, this report lifts the veil on appalling practices in China that make it one of the World Wide Web’s most repressive countries.

Please click here to download the full report in PDF format

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