Saturday, October 27, 2007

Poxy proxies

I've been trying to find a way around viewing my own blog from China and keep hearing that I should 'just use a proxy server' to make it look like I'm accessing the net from outside the country.
However, every proxy site I find doesn't seem to work for Blogspot. I even came across an article suggesting Google/Blogspot are in cahoots with the censors and have been blocking attempts to access their sites via proxies.
I'm a bit out of my depth here so all suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What an exciting place China is.
Yesterday I was still celebrating the return of blogspot which had been unblocked by the authorities.
However, today things are returning to normal. I can upload new posts (I think) but I can't read my own blog.
In fact, I can't read any blogspot page at the moment. It might change later in the week but there's absolutely no way to tell!
I spoke to a Chinese student today about YouTube being blocked since last week. They seemed surprised that I was concerned by this. It's all routine to locals.
"Oh it's just because of the Communist Party conference. Don't worry - it'll probably be back to normal soon."
Silly me. Sigh.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Google Video and YouTube suppressed

Looks like Google Video is just as inaccessible as YouTube.
Any attempt to watch videos through Google in China brings up the following message:

"Thanks for your interest in Google Video.
Currently, the playback feature of Google Video isn't available in your country.We hope to make this feature available more widely in the future, and we really appreciate your patience."

So that's Google, YouTube, the BBC and Wikipedia all on the blacklist.
How are we supposed to while away the hours of our working day without such distractions?

Meet The Press

Chinese State television - the hilariously named 'CCTV' - has been broadcasting highlights packages of the Communist Party Congress which took place last week in Beijing's Tiananmen Square (left).
This morning's news featured a bizarre 'Meet the Press' session where the nine big wigs from the government's all powerful Central Standing Committee lined up in front of photographers and reporters.
President Hu Jintao made a lengthy speech setting out the challenges ahead. It was thin on detail but that has become common at political conferences these days.
The funny thing was that when he reached the end of the script he thanked the journalists and exited to the stage left.
There were no questions, but reporters politely applauded the speech and headed off to file their copy.
The President had just been handed a new five year term and didn't even have to face the scrutiny of a genuine press conference.
This is the new superpower...

China censors Press Freedom Index

Last Tuesday, Reporters Without Borders published its annual World Press Freedom Index, placing China seventh from bottom.
I picked up that little nugget of info on another website but can't give you the full list of censorious nations because the Reporters Without Borders site is blocked! I'm betting North Korea was propping up the table though.
So I Googled 'World Press Freedom Index' to see if somebody else had published the report second hand - and I got the all too familiar 'Connection to server was reset'. That's what happens when a site or page has been blacklisted by the government.
I wonder how far from the bottom of the list you have to go before you find a country that actually allows publication of the World Press Freedom Index. I suppose it's not something you'd want publicized. Still, it seems a bit pointless. The only countries that are aware of it are those who live under regimes permissive enough to allow the media report on it.
The other theme I picked up from secondary reporting of the Reporters Without Borders document is that bloggers are facing increasingly strict and sophisticated censorship.
I'm just begging for this blog to be purged. To be honest, it'd be a bit disappointing if they ignored it.
Did I mention that I think the Dalai Lama is a gentlemen and that the Taiwanese should be allowed join the UN?
Just sayin'...

Censorship plot thickens

Theories on why China decided to block YouTube focused on last week's Communist Party Congress in Beijing and the fact that YouTube launched a Taiwanese version of its site on Thursday.
Now though, there are suggestions that the government was 'shielding' the public from images of George Bush feting the Dalai Lama in Washington. Have you seen the Dalai Lama? He's the most inoffensive old geezer you could imagine. All he does is smile and talk about peace. Subversive bastard.
And it appears YouTube was not the only victim. Users of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft search engines all founds themselves directed to the Chinese site Baidu.
The theory goes that popular sites were disrupted to force the public to consume news from official State media rather than see what the world was saying about the Dalai Lama and/or the Party Congress and/or YouTube's implicit acknowledgment of Taiwan as a separate entity to mainland China.
Add to this the fact the BBC News and Wikipedia remain off limits and it's not exactly a picture of a 21st century superpower.
Of course the authorities never comment - or even admit - to censoring the media, and researching censorship is a tricky business. The Party don't see the irony in blocking websites that refer to its habit of censoring anything it views as sensitive.
On the upside, Blogspot has been inexplicably unlocked so bloggers can get the word out of China - even if it's not as easy for information to get in.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bye bye YouTube?

In a bizarre twist, China appears to have unblocked Blogger but has axed YouTube. It's next to impossible to get information on why that is because, naturally, they've also blocked all news stories about it. You can see the headlines on Google News but the links take you to a dead end.
I know YouTube launched a Taiwanese version of its site last week so that could well have something to do with it. The Chinese Communist Party Congress also took place last week and they tend to be extra sensitive when there's anything political happening.
Hopefully it's just temporary. Google, which owns YouTube, is supposed to be on good terms with the government but it may have dirtied its bib by behaving as though Taiwan was independent of China.
Bring back the Tube!

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Great Firewall of China

Greetings from Beijing.

I'd hoped to be an avid blogger here in China once I got settled, but alas it hasn't panned out that way. My main excuse, apart from being distracted by all the weird and wonderful things Beijing has to offer, is censorship.

Seasoned Sinophiles will already be familiar with the Great Firewall of China, but for the uninitiated (which included me until a couple of months ago), the internet is heavily monitored by the authorities here.

The Great Firewall prevents bloggers from posting freely and also limits what can be downloaded from the net. Wikipedia is completely blocked where I am, although I believe you can get limited access depending on your service provider. Don't attempt to visit the pages on Tibet though. BBC News, the home of biased and reckless western propaganda, is completely out. And just about all blogs are inaccessible. Even certain YouTube videos - on Tiananmen Square for example - 'cannot be found' if you click on them from China.

In ex-pat bars everybody is talking about proxy servers and other ways of getting around online censorship. You can try to find a proxy site online which would trick the government into thinking that you're accessing the web from Japan or the US, but it's not always that easy to do an internet search for that kind of thing.

Google did a deal with the authorities here which means they tailor search results and play ball with the censors, in return for access to China's swelling ranks of internet junkies.
Just for the laugh, I've Googled 'Great Firewall of China' and each of the first 10 results were blocked!

So, I can't read my own blog from here and an American colleague who managed to get some of her stuff online says it's not uncommon for posts to go live only to disappear later. I've also read of blogs going down for a few days and returning minus one or two 'offensive' articles. Obviously the definition of what is unacceptable varies wildly.

I'm attempting to post this as an experiment. The irony of having a piece on web censorship blocked or taken down will be lost on the army of censors diligently searching for keywords in a government department somewhere in Beijing. Just for them, I'd like to bring up the following: Mao, Bush, One-Child policy, Olympics, human rights, Tibet, Taiwan, Falun Gong and, er, the death of communism.

If anybody (other than the censors) actually read this, please let me know. I have no way of checking.

By for now,

ps I didn't coin the term 'Great Firewall of China' - I just wish I did