Bloggers get no leeway in China

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! When a blogger friend visited China last year, he quickly hopped online to see which U.S. blogs he could and could not access. Mine was one of the ones for which he received an error message; I’d like to think that was a direct response to my posting Mao’s mug with the international “no” symbol superimposed on his face. But the bloggers in real danger from the communist regime’s censors and crackdowns are those based in China. Of the 56 cyberdissidents imprisoned worldwide as kept track of by Reporters Without Borders, 48 are in China. Chinese President Hu Jintao came to the United States last week to dine with Bill Gates and gab with George W. Bush, talking about intellectual property rights, trade and currency. However, Hu’s visit should have also served as a time for some stateside industrial introspection. Namely, how much are you going to sell your soul – and sell out democracy-seeking Chinese citizens – for a stake on the Web in the People’s Republic? Soon after MSN China launched in May 2005, bloggers on Microsoft’s site faced blocking of words such as “freedom,” “democracy,” “demonstration,” “human rights” and “Taiwan independence.” Soon after that, China required that bloggers register with the Ministry of Information Industry, citing the spread of “harmful information that has seriously poisoned people’s spirits.” Last December, MSN shut down the site of Michael Anti, a popular Chinese blogger, under pressure from authorities, according to Reporters Without Borders. Talk about poisoning people’s spirits. But MSN is not alone in bending to what it told the BBC was “the reality of operating in countries around the world.” Google censors its Chinese search engine to the government’s liking, joining competitors Yahoo! and Microsoft in the practice. The Global Online Freedom Act, introduced by Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., aims to “to promote freedom of expression on the Internet, to protect United States businesses from coercion to participate in repression by authoritarian foreign governments.” Smith’s House Committee on International Relations heard testimony from Yahoo! about its role in nabbing cyberdissidents, and allegations that Cisco was training police on how to use their technology to track dissidents. On April 7, Reporters Without Borders set up shop outside Yahoo! headquarters to catch employees as they were leaving to show them video of pro-democracy activist Li Zhi’s brother and journalist Shi Tao’s lawyer, criticizing Yahoo! for providing information about them to Chinese authorities. Li got eight years in prison. Shi got a 10-year sentence for letting foreign journalists know of government warnings to Chinese journalists about feared upheaval on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. “It is one thing to turn a blind eye to the Chinese government’s abuses and it is quite another thing to collaborate,” Reporters Without Borders has said. Hopefully, you do neither. In reality, we have people like London Mayor Ken Livingstone calling the Tiananmen slaughter “interesting history,” conveniently looking past the bloodstains to see the dollar signs and business opportunities in China. Last year, Forbes quoted a Yahoo! spokesperson as saying, “Just like any other global company, Yahoo! must ensure that its local country sites must operate within the laws, regulations and customs of the country in which they are based.” But how much are you a lapdog for your host country? Would you lop off the hand of a worker who stole because it’s the custom of your host country? If you set up business in a Mugabe-style country and they told you to can all of your whites, would you do it? If Nazi Germany asked a company to hand over a list of its Jews as a condition to operate there, could the firm’s complicity in the fate of those targeted by the government be rationalized? Can you ever neglect a moral duty by writing it off as the cost of doing business? Remember Tiananmen Square’s brave “tank man,” probably the most admired Chinese man (sorry, Mao) in history? Those tanks are still bearing down on the Chinese people, only this time in the form of 30,000 Web police trying to catch the dissidents in more than 100 million national Internet users. Will America’s online companies step up and block the offensive on freedom of speech? Or will they provide the Chinese regime with ammunition?. Bridget Johnson writes for the Daily News. E-mail her at [email protected]last_img

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