Annual Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in China, 2011

Chinese Human Rights Defenders has released its annual report on the situation of human rights defenders in China (2011). Despite the harsh crackdown on the Internet, netizens and activists continue to fight against the censorship machine. Below are some excerpts on the part of “freedom of expression” from the report.

The Jasmine Revolution in the middle East has alerted the Chinese government to tighten its control over the the Internet:

The government continued to obstruct free expression online and to attempt to block the dissemination of human rights information. Censorship was kept up by authorities issuing lists of banned key words, promulgating edicts to control, or “guide”, media reporting and internet discussions, closing down websites, blogs and microblogs, and staging crackdowns during “sensitive periods,” as well as by purportedly rooting out “pornography” and “rumors.”

Apart from upgrading the Great Firewall in blocking overseas websites and filtering out keywords, the authority also disrupts VPNs and other circumvention tools to stop Chinese people from connecting with the overseas dissidents. In addition, microblogging platform is also the main target for regulation:

The most alarming development in 2011 was the government’s introduction of the requirement that microbloggers use their real names when registering to open an account. The thriving domestic microblogsphere has proved highly effective in exposing government misconduct during the past few years, but it is now threatened with curtailment as a result of this requirement.

After much speculation about its introduction, it was announced at the end of the year that it would be implemented in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. Since the two main internet companies operating microblogs in China—Sina and Tencent—are based in Beijing and Shenzhen, the new measure is likely to affect most of China’s 250 million registered microblog users.

Nevertheless, activists have developed strategy in coping with the new censorship measures:

Activists also noted increased difficulty accessing and using microblogs, but they said there
were ways to circumvent this and other censorship measures. For example, they “set up multiple websites, blogs and microblogs” and “continuously changed… their means of communication and email addresses” so that it was harder for the authorities to keep track of their activities. When microblogs were deleted, netizens were quick to “reincarnate” by registering for new accounts.

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