China Closes Dissident Blog Nominated for Award

2005-10-31
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HONG KONG—The Chinese authorities have blocked access to a personal Web log, or blog, written by a prominent critic of the communist regime after it was nominated for a key award.

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Wang Yi’s Microphone , was nominated for two categories in the Best of Blog (BOB) Awards sponsored by German radio station Deutsche Welle.

“Initially I set up my blog as a place to collect together all my writings so they could all be seen in one place,” blog author Wang Yi told RFA’s Mandarin service.

“Then it gradually turned into a news blog, posting the sorts of articles that could not be published on other Web sites, on sensitive subjects like human rights. I was able to publish them on my blog instead,” said Wang, who teaches at Chengdu University in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

Dodging the censors

“But they have started blocking access to my blog in the past six months. No sooner do I find a way around the filters, than they manage to block it again,” he told reporter Ke Hua.

Wang has used a series of different servers to host his blog, repeatedly changing his domain name in an attempt to elude the official censors.

“The fact that my non-existent blog has been nominated for an award is a biting indictment and a mockery of the current situation in Chinese cyberspace,” Wang said.

“The best thing about this award is that it’s a slap in the face for those who police the Internet in China.”

Wang said he took the name for his blog from a song lyric that goes: “Who has taken my microphone away? Never mind. I still have my voice.”

“Of course it matters that the microphone has been taken away. But vocal chords are part of one’s body. And the right to speak is an inalienable one; one which is laid down in black and white in China’s constitution.”

Human rights issues sensitive

One of the most sensitive subjects on Wang’s blog was the recent campaign by villagers in Taishi village, Guangdong province, to remove their elected village chief amid allegations of corruption in a property deal involving villagers’ land.

Prominent Beijing-based independent commentator Liu Xiaobo said the nomination of Wang’s blog—in both the Best Blog Chinese and Reporters Without Borders Special Award categories—was highly significant.

“He is one of China’s most important rights activists on the Internet at the moment,” Liu said.

“Not only does he campaign for the rights of the oppressed, he also helps to protect freedoms on the Internet itself. He has made a huge contribution to the fight for freedom of expression online, and hosted a number of online petitions,” he said.

The relative technical simplicity and low cost of blogs—many blogging service providers offer free blog space—are powerful motivators in getting people to write online, and are rapidly taking off in China, experts say.

Chinese bloggers write on subjects ranging from daily diary entries of personal trivia and family news, to top-flight political commentary and on-the-spot citizen journalism.

Tightly controlled news

Some are written by mainstream journalists who wish to publish the story they see behind the official version of events, which is strictly controlled by China’s Communist Party Central Propaganda Department.

But increasingly sophisticated filtering software supplied by Western technology companies, makes it possible for China’s Web police to block online content containing material the government considers subversive.

Among the list of words or phrases currently censored by Internet service providers are “democracy,” “human rights,” “Tibet independence,” and “June 4, 1989.”

China has recently required independently hosted bloggers to complete a lengthy and costly registration process in which they submit their personal details to the authorities, and closed prominent several key online discussion forums which reported sensitive material.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Ke Hua. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Original reporting in Mandarin

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