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Beijing pushes on the culture of self-censorship

Beijing pushes on the culture of self-censorship

“Your site is not compatible with the provisions of the Administration regarding online journalism: it has illegally set up a section dedicated to news”. This is the message of the Chinese Propaganda Office which can reach any administrator of the over three million websites locals who collect news from sources independent of the regime, including interviews.

It is known that the propaganda and censorship apparatus of the Chinese government has been operating at full capacity for years, since well before 2005, the year in which the monitoring of the Network is operated according to organized schemes, an action that takes place on the most disparate fronts. The umpteenth confirmation of the situation in which netizens find themselves beyond the great digital wall comes from a document by Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), based on the tip of an anonymous local technician.

The censorship and propaganda machine of the People’s Republic, explains RSF, is made up of numerous gears. The Office of the Party for Information and Public Opinion and its study center investigated what is happening online: they beat the Net and organize daily reports and weekly to update the government and the managers of numerous commercial sites on the mood on the net, as well as on the troublemakers that animate the most extremist among netizens.

The pivot of the apparatus that supports the great Chinese firewall is the Internet office party: according to RSF takes advantage of a budget from 19 billion euros to control the 162 million Chinese netizens. His is an activity that unfolds on several fronts. For example, it organizes courses for train students and government employees to censorship techniques and self-censorship, suggesting a set of keyword “Sensitive”, which could remain entangled in the caudine forks of censorship. Among the words to be used with caution, “1989.6.4” (date of the events in Tiananmen), “Li Hongzhi” (founder of the heretical Falun Gong movement), synonyms and periphrases are no exception. The lessons of the Internet Office even involved numerous companies that operate online, Yahoo! including. The purpose of the courses? To instill drops of regime propaganda into the corporate philosophy.

If that were not enough, the Internet Office constantly verifies that the students have learned the lesson: SMS and MSN are the preferred means of Internet Office employees to communicate with site administrators and journalists and rattle off threatening advice on topics to be addressed online. For those who decide not to submit to the warnings, the penalties are among the most varied. Financial penalty for those who cite alternative sources to the state agency Xinhua, dismissal for a Netease journalist who proposed a risky survey in the section dedicated to the debate, section promptly removed.

The subject of the survey was the homeland love of fellow citizens. To the question “If you were reborn, would you choose to be reborn as Chinese?” 64 per cent of respondents would favor other births. “It is not honorable to be Chinese”, “happiness in China is inaccessible” the motivations of some of the participants.

Gaia Bottà