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New online censorship campaign extinguishes last flicker of Olympic torch

January 14, 2009

Reporters Without Borders regards the campaign against Internet porn that China launched on 5 January as just a pretext for reinforcing online censorship. More than 90 websites have so far been blocked, but some of them have no pornographic content. Foreign ministry spokesperson Jian Yu nonetheless insisted today that "China takes a positive and open minded attitude toward the management of the Internet."

"The online Great Wall no longer suffices for the government, which is using porn as a pretext to block websites where people express themselves freely," Reporters Without Borders said. "Internet users have shown they know how to breach the Great Wall and the government′s persistence proves that it fears the Internet′s appropriation by Chinese citizens."

The press freedom organisation added: "The Olympic torch is now definitely extinguished and the government′s much-vaunted liberalisation is no more. The campaign against political dissidents is now out in the open."

The government began its campaign on 5 January by ordering Google and Baidu, China′s two most popular search engines, to "take more effective measures" to combat online porn.

But in practice the campaign is much broader and is also targeting political and human rights content. Amnesty International reported yesterday that its website, which was rendered accessible in China on 1 August, a week before the start of the Beijing Olympic Games, has again been blocked.

Brushing aside the allegation, Jian Yu of the foreign ministry said this kind of accusation was made by people who "are ignorant of China′s situation."

Bullog (, a political blog portal, has been inaccessible since 9 January. The portal′s editor, Luo Yonghao), has posted a note that includes the text of the directive issued by the Beijing Bureau of Information calling for its closure.

The directive says: "The website is publishing a lot of negative information in the public domain. We already asked it to correct this, but the site has still not taken any effective measures. It is now necessary that the hosting organisation block the domain name - HOLD domain name"

The portal groups some well-known political websites and blogs, some belonging to people such as Ran Yunfei, Baozuitun, Liao Wendao, Ai Weiwei, Wang Xiaoshan, Mo Zhixu, Wu Yue San Ren, Shi Nian Kan Chai and A Ding. all signatories of Charter 8, a manifesto calling for democratic reform inspired by Charter 77, the manifesto issued by Czechoslovak dissidents in 1977.

Bullog was already suspended in October 2007, but Luo Yonghao managed to get it reopened by promising the authorities to be "vigilant about site content."

The government meanwhile announced today that it wants to reinforce the state media such as CCTV and the news agency Xinhua. Writing in the Communist Party′s ideological newspaper, which sets the political priorities each year, Propaganda Bureau chief Liu Yunshan said: "It has become urgent for China to ensure that our communication capacity matches our international prestige."

As a result, China is planning to spend 17 billion yuan (2 billion euros) on boosting the influence of these two news media.

For more information contact:
Reporters Without Borders

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