How China’s Internet Police Control Speech on the Internet

China’s Internet police warn netizens not to spread “harmful information,” expert says.
Special Commentator: Xiao Qiang
2008-11-24
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(Special commentaries represent only the individual position and viewpoint of the commentator.)

China’s police authorities spent the three years between 2003 and 2006 completing the massive “Golden Shield Project.” Not only did over 50 percent of China’s policing agencies get on the Internet, there is also an agency called the Public Information Network Security and Monitoring Bureau, which boasts a huge number of technologically advanced and well-equipped network police. These are all the direct products of the Golden Shield Project.

So, how do the police in the Network Monitoring Bureau do their work? We only need to do a bit of Internet searching to see many examples. Today, I want to discuss two items. The first is a notice seen on an Internet discussion forum from Tangshan in Hebei Province, which said, “In accordance with the requirements of the Public Security Network Monitoring Office of the City of Tangshan, this discussion forum will make strict inspections for harmful information. The administrator must immediately remove any of the following harmful information discovered and notify the management, and will close the account of the person posting such harmful information. Serious cases will be referred to the Tangshan Municipal Public Security Network Monitoring Office for handling according to the law.” The notice also said, “The Municipal Public Security Network Monitoring Office already possesses the Web sites and codes of the managers of this forum; it will be able to handle harmful information and has the authority to inspect and view the accounts, IP addresses, posting times, and other key information about those posting harmful information.”

If the Tangshan example is not thorough enough, then please see the following notification from the Guangzhou Municipal Public Security Network Monitoring Division in July of 2006: “Each Web site shall place a police alert in a visible location on the lower portion of its homepage, and cartoon police alert icons on the homepages of its blogging, discussion forum, and social and other networking pages, which shall lead directly to the designated Web sites of the public security authorities.” It also said, “The managers of blogging, discussion forum, and social and other networking columns and Web sites must join a QQ chat group set up by the public security authorities, in order to be contacted during the course of their daily work.”

It appears that there is nothing the network police aren’t watching in terms of managing Web sites and discussion forums, and they are also using real-time communication to track people. I would say that a concrete image like this will send a chill up the spine of every netizen.

There are no clearer examples than these of an autocratic government using a massive policing mechanism to control people’s speech.