Using Tofu to Beat Steel

A former premier's aide questions Beijing's assertion that 'the Internet isn't outside the law' in China.
By Bao Tong
2013.01.07
Chinese policemen check an Internet cafe in Beijing, Feb. 22, 2012.
Imaginechina

The People's Daily has published a four-part series of articles to educate the populace that: "The Internet isn't outside the law." The general secretary tells us: "That which we tell others not to do, we must assiduously refrain from doing ourselves."

From this we can see that the main theme tune is about setting a good example on the Internet, and about leading the way in upholding the law.

However, experience has shown me that China's Internet remains a place beyond the law. All of the actions of the stability police show that it is still under the sole control of the political and legal affairs committee.

How does that follow? Let's take Bao Tong's microblog account as a real-life example.

To register, I need to use my real name.

OK, I'll register with my real name.

How would you like to register?

With the name "Bao Tong."

Not possible.

What to do? I am forced to change it to "BaoTong_born_after_1980".

It wants me to enter my ID card number.

After I do so, it seems there is a hitch. My registration has been rejected.

So what does the above demonstration tell us? Is it that my name is illegal? Or is it that my ID card, issued by the police, is illegal? Or is it illegal for citizens to register for microblog accounts?

It is none of the above. It tells us that it is "according to the law" to strip citizens of their right to open a blogging account! It shows us that saying that the Internet isn't outside the law doesn't mean it's outside the control of the politics and legal affairs committee, either.

Perhaps this is a case of "political investigation with Chinese characteristics." Our leaders are busy exhorting the United States not to subject them to political inspection on any account.

This is too funny, because political inspection with Chinese characteristics entails looking at the world through tinted spectacles, discrimination, and oppression.

There's nothing good about it. This government should never be allowed to act in the name of political inspection, because it uses it as a way to keep citizens down and to silence dissenting opinion, because our government "is always right, is always correct, is definitely revolutionary, and definitely abides by the law."

The new leaders make pretty speeches, but you need something hard to beat steel with. It can't be done with tofu. That can't be the leadership's intention.

Who can tell me it is the leadership's intention to demand, in accordance with the main theme tune, that the Internet must obey the law, while the political and legal affairs committees control it illegally?

Do they intend to say one thing and do another? Is there one set of rules for government and another for the rest of us?

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Bao Tong, political aide to the late ousted Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.

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