PBS: How CyberDissidents Evade Chinese Censorship
|June 14, 2012|
The following excerpt was taken from MediaShift, to view the original, click here.
PDF12: How Cyber-Dissidents Evade Chinese Censorship
NEW YORK -- The famous Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei once wrote in a blog, "To express yourself needs a reason, but expressing yourself is a reason." In the highly censored world of Chinese media, this sums up the growing consensus within that country -- and around the world -- that the freedom of expression and dissent is important as an ends, and not just a means.
I'm writing from the 2012 Personal Democracy Forum (PDF12), taking place this week at New York University, and where a group of presenters tackled the issue of Internet Freedom in China.
With more than half of a billion people online, China's Internet holds major promises and perils for Chinese citizens who hope to learn about the world -- and help the world learn about them -- using this medium.
A Direct Approach
But many in the United States are not interested in responding to China's well-documented censorship activities with artistic or creative workarounds. As the New York Times reported earlier this week, American human rights organizations (including Movements.org, started by State Department digital media veteran Jared Cohen) are increasing their support for online activists living under authoritarian regimes. I spoke to the executive director of CyberDissidents, David Keyes, who was featured in the Times article and who addressed the issue of Chinese censorship specifically.
Keyes put the problem in stark terms when he said that the "Chinese government has demonstrated repeatedly that it fears freedom of speech and is willing to use draconian measures to stifle individual dissidents." Yet he ended our conversation optimistically, noting that the "Chinese activists are among the most skillful in the world at circumventing censorship. They are clever and brave -- a powerful combination. It is particularly important for the free world to unapologetically stand behind those Chinese online activists who pay such a heavy price for speaking their mind."
The problem of Internet freedom -- or lack thereof -- in China is a complex one that has challenging political, cultural, and diplomatic dimensions. The key theme of this year's Personal Democracy Forum was "The Internet's New Political Power." However, it was clear from the speaking program that, at least in China, the political power of the Internet has not been unleashed ... yet.