November 01, 2005

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Daily linklets 1st November posted by Simon on 11.01.05 at 02:07 PM in the Daily linklets category.


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Peking Duck blocked in China?!

posted by: LfC on 11.01.05 at 06:31 PM [permalink]

I am more surprised why it hasn't been blocked all these times, given those other "more friendly" sites were already blocked.

The only reason I could have thought of was because it was in english, and CCP censor was busy watching over chinese language sites.

posted by: sun bin on 11.02.05 at 01:03 AM [permalink]

Sun Bin's right. The miracle is it hasn't happened earlier.

posted by: Simon on 11.02.05 at 09:01 AM [permalink]

Well, I'm very surprised that it has taken this long, especially considering all of the ongoing campaigning that Mrs Amanda Liu has been engaged in to get it blocked since last July. Blog-city was blocked not too long after my China Daily article drew her attention to The Horse's Mouth, the Angry Chinese Blogger and Keving in Pudong, though she had been campaigning before then to get Dave's ESL Cafe blocked - she was outraged by that site's open forum. She claims that Dave Sperling made changes to the accessability of his forum only after my China Daily article was published, though his decision has to be seen in the context that he was already under constant pressure from Mrs Liu and her lobby group. He stood to lose an enormous amount of revenue if his site were to be blocked on the mainland, as mainland educational institutions now make up his biggest market after South Korea.

When I wrote my China Daily article (which I stand by), it wasn't my intention to help get any of these sites blocked, mind you! I need to stress that I think. Having said that though, I can't help but to feel as though Richard has got his just desserts. I know I will be crucified for having said that, but... Look at it this way: Richard was receiving complaints about the length of my comments to his site, and because he is so concerned about maintaining site traffic, he seized on the first opportunity he got to drive me away - when KLS mentioned that I had been copying and pasting without always acknowledging my sources. I apologised for that, but Richard proceeded to instigate and to encourage a witch hunt (which KLS himself was critical of). This, mind you, came only days after I had offered to assist Richard financially on his arrival to Shenzhen, in response to his open request.

When I mentioned his full name once in my China Daily article, he claimed that I was being malicious, saying that he didn't want his full identity associated with his Peking Duck site. Well, that's odd, because I first discovered his site via the evworld site, and on this site Richard was openly promoting his Peking Duck under his full name! He simply wanted to paint me out to be Mr Evil incarnate, and what's more, he then spread a rumour that I had written a letter or an email to his past employer, revealing him to be a homosexual. This is an outright vicious lie.

So I can't help but to feel as though he has got his just desserts really - having his site blocked on the mainland will probably make it difficult for him to continue to attract new readers in the same numbers that he was previously able to do - and that is what he appears to want most, because he is out to make money from advertising revenue. As he himself recently wrote, "Show me a blog that is objective, and I'll show you a site with no traffic, no comments, etc." Well, that just about sums up what the Peking Duck is really all about then, doesn't it? It's not about being fair, balanced, objective. It's about giving people want they want - a daily dose of China-bashing dribble to get off on, so that he can make a little money through advertising.

Mark Anthony Jones

posted by: Mark Anthony Jones on 11.02.05 at 01:00 PM [permalink]

MAJ - it's not about money. I also accept advertising in order to defray the costs in running this site. Trust me when I say the revenues are not significant enough to make a difference either way.

As for the banning, I don't believe it's a major issue. The blog is in English, and those reading from the mainland are likely already adept at using proxy servers and the like.

As for the biases of blogs, Richard's right. No blog I know of pretends to be a neutral, objective news source. It's all about opinions.

posted by: Simon on 11.02.05 at 01:09 PM [permalink]

Well, the money isn't much I know, and I'm not saying that there is anything fundamentally wrong with him trying to make money from his site - my point is, he wants to use his site to make money, even if it is just a little, and that means maintaining decent traffic. I suspect that he drove me away because he was worried that my lengthy comments were scaring away too many readers. He actually said that to me, in fact, that he had received many complaint emails about the length of my comments.

If he is going to operate a blog, which occupies a public space, then he has to be prepared to accept criticisms of both his ideas and opinions, as well as his blog. When I wrote a reasonable criticism (without making any personal attacks) which China Daily published, he responded by launching into a smear campaign against me, and he also tried bullying you and Bingfeng into not giving me a space to express my views. His behaviour at that time was outrageous.

I have published all sorts of personal details about myself online - even my address and phone number! If somebody finds it, and advertises it elsewhere online, then that is my problem! I have to take responsibility for that - if I make such details public by putting them online, on a public space, then I have to accept that this information is public, and was made public by me. The same applies to Richard. He promotes his site under his own full name on one site, so he has no right whatsoever to criticise me and to demonise me for citing that information elsewhere online. Period. No rational personal could possibly argue otherwise! Numerous other sites also mentioned him by his full name - including this one.

It is a perfectly reasonable criticism to make - that his blog is biased and ethnocentric, that it is lacking in objectivity. If he can't handle that, then he shouldn't run a blog, should he?

Not everybody will be able to access his blog from the mainland - not everybody will be bothered, and not everybody knows how to set up and to use proxy servers. And not all proxies work - I cannot access TPD using a proxy server from here in Shenzhen, yet I can access blog-city sites using proxies. Another person on some other site has mentioned that they too cannot access it from Beijing, even when using a proxy.

I'm sorry if I seem a little harsh, though you are right, it is no big deal that his juvenile hate site has been blocked here on the mianland of China - some will miss it, most will not.

The first comment I ever posted on TPD was deleted almost immediately - why? Richard mistook me for somebody else. That somebody else, who has kept in contact with me ever since, and who resides in Shanghai, will be meeting me for the first time this weekend at a pub in Wan Cai. We plan to celebrate over a few beers! Maybe Mrs Amanda Liu, who is from Guangzhou, would care to join us, if she has a Hong Kong pass.

Mark Anthony Jones

posted by: Mark Anthony Jones on 11.02.05 at 02:40 PM [permalink]

Last July I wrote an article which was published by The China Daily on what I see as the disappointing ethnocentrism of many English-language China blogs. The article excited a heated response from many readers, and soon afterwards, three of the four blog sites that I had criticised were blocked: The Horse’s Mouth, the Angry Chinese Blogger and Kevin In Pudong. All three of these were hosted by blog-city.

A few days ago the other site that I focused on, The Peking Duck, also fell victim to the mainland’s censors.

What is my position on this?

The question of China’s internet censorship is a problematic one, but I believe that China’s internet censorship practices need to be viewed in the wider international context.
All countries have internet censorship policies. Since at least 1995, most governments around the world have been addressing the problems of material on the internet that is illegal under their offline laws, and in most cases, have concerned the issues of political speech, the promotion of or incitement to racial hatred, and pornographic material.

Different countries have to date experimented with a variety of means when censoring the internet. In the United Kingdom and Canada for example, government policy has been largely to encourage self-regulation within the internet industry.

In Australian Commonwealth law, we see instead the government mandated blocking of access to content deemed unsuitable for adults. This has been the case in Australia since January 2000. The ABA (Australian Broadcasting Authority) has the power to monitor the internet, investigate complaints and to require that Internet Service Providers block or remove internet sites anywhere in the world deemed offensive. Web sites, newsgroups and databases are all subject to censorship, as are personal emails. This approach is also the one used here in China, as well as in Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. Some of these countries require internet access providers to block material while others only allow restricted access to the internet through government controlled access points.

China currently operates the most extensive, technologically sophisticated, and broad-reaching system of internet filtering in the world. According to a study conducted by OpenNet Initiative, which is a partnership between the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, and the Advanced Network Research Group at the Cambridge Security Programme at Cambridge University, China’s legal regulation of the internet is extraordinarily complex: “The legal regime comprises requirements and prohibitions issued by multiple bodies and administrative agencies [and there are] at least a dozen entities [which] have authority over internet access and content in some form. These rules frequently overlap and restate prior provisions. Conforming to these requirements is made more difficult by the broad, sweeping definitions that many regulations employ. Overall, China’s legal controls over the internet have expanded greatly since 2000, indicating increased attention to this medium of communication.

Moreover, the number of regulatory bodies with a role in internet control has increased. This may indicate intra-governmental competition for a voice in shaping a medium viewed as vital to China’s economic growth and political stability.”

Content control in China then, occurs through informal as well as formal measures. Thus, the Internet Society of China pressures content and access providers to agree to a “Public Pledge of Self-Regulation and Professional Ethics.” Companies often accede; Yahoo! agreed to the pledge in 2002, and filters content available to users at its Chinese language portal. Internet regulation in China is based on the philosophy that “one is responsible for what one publishes.” Thus, Internet companies in China practice a high degree of self-censorship. Internet Service Providers perform self-censorship, including using employees who lead teams of volunteers to monitor and moderate chat rooms and bulletin boards. China can thus filter content through voluntary, informal measures, as well as via formal legal or technological means.

Users, in effect, act as an additional regulatory mechanism, and many citizens view internet regulation as necessary, and monitor Web sites, chat rooms, and bulletin boards for inappropriate content, reporting violations to the authorities.

One such citizen is Mrs Amanda Liu, who heads a lobby group based in Guangzhou, and who responded on the pages of The China Daily to my article. She wrote, on the 25th of July:

"You raise two very good questions to which I would like to answer with things I have read in the writings of the late Chief Justice of the United States, Oliver Wendell Holmes.

No one has the right to cry fire in a crowded theater anywhere. No one has the right to provoke a panic, nor to excessively disturb the established order. That is not Chinese thinking - that is American jurisprudence.

1. Are those who host websites responsible for the content displayed therein in the Modern Age?

Absolutely yes. A website is a tool. It can be a tool for good; it can be a tool for evil. If it fosters hate, warmongering, criminal elements, extreme political views whose sole purpose is to perturb the established order, then yes, it should be shut down. And the keeper of the website should either be sent to jail or should be fined.

If the website, on the other hand, provides a forum for reasonable, intelligent provocative discussion in a non-threatening and non-bellicose manner, then no, the website should not be challenged, provided, however, it does not violate any of the laws, rules, nor regulations of the country in which it resides or in which it is read.

3. A case in point from which I began my entire campaign for website responsibility from Westerns, particularly Americans, resident in China and living off the public purse.

As I have said now three times, on Dave's, in the Off-Topic China Forum, there was a seven-page posting on how American should wage nuclear war on China and how it should destroy our cities.

That posting is completely beyond the pale of what is acceptable. And there were many other others.

So thus it became necessary to wage a campaign to restrict that website, and with the help of all of my friends in Guangzhou, we were successful.

David Sperling, the owner of the website who resides in California ( was forced to make all of the obscene, violent, extremely China-bashing forums private. He perfectly understood that he risked having his entire site banned for hate mongering, etc.

So to answer your question in a few words: Intelligent discussion, even simple discussion is welcome on any BBS provided it does not violate nor flaunt the established norms of the country either in which it is viewed or in which is it hosted.

As demonstrated, in the case of Dave's Web Site, which actively discussed maiming and killing Chinese citizens and destroying our country, that is simply ultra hatred. And thus it had to be restricted.

And frankly, we are still working to have the entire site shut down. It has gone too far."

Mrs Liu corresponded with me several times by email, pledging to not only continue with her campaign to have Dave’s ESL Café blocked, but also the four English-language China blogs that I discussed in my article.

Whether or not Mrs Liu and her friends were justified in their efforts to get such sites blocked depends on the following two questions: (1). What kind of internet materials should China have a moral right to block? And (2), do the blogs in question fall into this category of being socially unacceptable?

China’s State Council Order No. 292, promulgated in September 2000, established formal content restrictions for Internet Content Providers, with its Article 15 specifying nine restricted, relatively vague categories of information that cannot be produced, copied, published, or disseminated, comprising data

1. Which are against the principles prescribed in the Constitution;
2. Which endanger the security of the State, divulge the secrets of the State, overthrow the government, or damage the unification of the state;
3. Which harm the dignity and interests of the State;
4. Which instigate hatred, discrimination among the ethnic groups, or destroy the unity of nationalities;
5. Which break the religious policy of the State, spread evil cults or feudal superstition;
6. Which spread rumors, disturb the social order, and damage the social stability;
7. Which spread pornography, sex, gambling, violence, murder, terrorism or abetment;
8. Which insult or slander others and thus infringe upon others' lawful rights and interests; or
9. Which involve other contents prohibited by the laws and administrative rules.

All societies need to strike their own balance when it comes to protecting the rights of individuals and the rights of the wider community. Freedom of speech for example, is indeed negotiable, even in Western societies, where various forms of censorship are also practiced in the interests of protecting the wider community. Apart from defamation laws, television and film ratings and internet censorship laws, racial vilification laws also exist in most Western countries. These racial vilification laws differ slightly from country to country, but let us take Australia's racial vilification laws as an example. The law there forbids the public airing (including the use of websites) of any messages that can be shown to cause "insult, humiliation or distress" to an individual or group of individuals based on their ethnicity, nationality or religious affiliation. This is how a "hate" site is defined. Hate sites do not necessarily need to incite hatred - they need only to cause "insult, humiliation or distress" to be classified as a "hate" site.

The racial vilification laws of New Zealand, Canada, and most Western Europeans countries are almost the same in this regard. And these laws are often put into practice. In 2002, an Australian man by the name of Frederick Toben for example, was ordered by the Australian Government to shut down his website which claimed that the Nazi holocaust did not occur because it caused some Jewish Australians considerable "distress".

China has every right to formulate its own laws, and it has every right, just like every other country, to ban websites and other publications that cause its own citizens "insult, humiliation or distress," or to censor information in the interests of maintaining social cohesion and stability. It's not difficult to charge many Western critics of China with a failure to see human rights problems in Chinese terms. This is not to say, of course, that Chinese society ought not to be open to criticism by foreigners and Chinese nationals alike, but rather, that such criticisms need to be based on empirically verifiable research, and that any conclusions drawn need to be fair and balanced, and that the people of China ought to be judged in their own terms, not according to the values of Westerners. The right balance struck in protecting the rights of the individual against the rights of the wider community in one country, may not necessarily represent an appropriate balance for another. You can often borrow ideas, but you can't borrow situations.

So in answer to the first question, I have to say that I believe China, like all other societies, does indeed have a right to censor internet sites as outlined in Article 15 of the State Council Order No.292. The criteria used in fact, is very similar to those used by most Western countries.

If you accept this, as I do, then the blocking of The Peking Duck and The Horse’s Mouth, etc., all hinges on whether or not these sites can be reasonably classified and regarded as “hate” sites – and here is where the real controversy I think, lies.

Readers familiar with the sites in question will of course be able to make judgments for themselves, but for those of you who are interested in knowing my view on this matter, you can scroll down to the first two articles posted on the “China Articles” page of my blog, where I have already discussed the question of whether or not they constitute as “hate’ sites in some considerable detail.

Mark Anthony Jones

posted by: Flowing Waters Never Stale on 11.03.05 at 06:35 PM [permalink]

MAJ, I've got numerous problems with what you've said, but time does not permit me to go into detail now (although I will tomorrow).

But there's one glaring fault in your logic: in all those other countries, the people get to elect those that make the decisions. What China does is legal under its own legal processes. So was the processes followed by Stalin and Hitler in their states at their times. Being legal does not mean being right. There is a vast difference between screaming fire in a crowded room and blogs, even if they are considered offensive or out of order. I've never seen someone's life threatened due to what they read in a blog. If China's process was an open one, subject to widespread debate in the media and public, your arguement might hold water. But when imposed from above to protect those in power, it falls over.

As I said, more tomrrow.

posted by: Simon on 11.03.05 at 07:05 PM [permalink]

Not to mention one other key difference - with blogs you have a choice to not read them. There's no compulsion. With the "Fire" example, there is no choice in the matter to reacting to the comment.

Yet again, that word "choice". It's a massive difference.

posted by: Simon on 11.03.05 at 07:08 PM [permalink]

Interesting response Simon, and I appreciate your views, but as I have argued in detail already in an article I wrote on my blog, the CCP does have a legitimate right to govern - it does, contrary to what you may like to hink, have a strong mandate. This is painfully obvious - the vast majority of mainland citizens continually express general satisfaction with the present status quo, and the overwhelming majority say they do not want multi-party elections at this stage in China's development. Now look, I'm not merely parroting CCP propaganda when I point this out - independent U.S., Taiwanese and European researchers have all reached the same conclusions from their own studies, some of which have been conducted on vast, national scales. The academic world accept these findings - the last such study that I am aware of was presented in Taipei at last year's 32nd Sino-American Conference on Contemporary China. It's conclusions were accepted. Anyone who lives on the mainland knows very well that the vast majority support the right of the CCP to govern - purely by the strength of anecdotal evidence. You only have to teach here, or talk to people you meet, to gain such insights.

So the first fault you talk about I reject. The empirically verifiable evidence shows that the CCP does have a popular mandate to govern, and to legislate and enforce its laws, as does the anecdotal evidence.

Your second objection is interesting: you say that people have a choice not to read them. Well, in Europe and Australia, this line of reasoning has been rejected several times already in law. It was raised in particular during the Frederick Toben case in Adelaide. The Australian courts rejected this very argument, and ordered his site to be closed down. Toben's lawyers argued that his site was an academic history site, and that people have a choice whether of not they read it. His main argument was that the Nazi holocaust didn't occur. The courts rejected his defence on the grounds that many people will indeed be directed to his site, not knowing what to expect, and once they open it and begin reading it, they may find the contents disturbing, offensive, humiliating, etc. The mere knowledge that such a site exists then continues to haunt.

And those who do "choose" to read hate sites can have their world views distorted (especially those who are young and impressionable) - and this, of course, can influence not only attitudes but also social behaviours. This is EXACTLY why hate sites are defined in law, and why most countries outlaw them. If this logic of yours was reasonable and flawless, then there would be no such need for vilification laws that outlaw published materials - be they books, magazines, online sites, films, etc.

So I also reject your second criticism.

Mark Anthony Jones

posted by: Mark Anthony Jones on 11.04.05 at 09:36 AM [permalink]

If the CCP are so comfortable with their popularity and mandate, why don't they allow elections? Clearly they'd win if your polling is correct. Of course they may need to release the press to be truly free, stop co-ercing those they rule with threats and promises and seperate the party from the state, but they'd still win hands down.

I find your second line of reasoning ironic. You are applying the logic and court ruling of a liberal democracy (Australia) and using it to justify the blocking of "hate" sites in authoritarian China. The key difference is in australia Mr Tobin had a chance to represent and defend himself in a court of law, against a law that was passed by a freely elected parliament, that was widely debated in the press and community.

So I reject your rejections.

posted by: Simon on 11.04.05 at 10:09 AM [permalink]

Dear Simon,

I understand where you are coming from, but I think you are missing the whole point here. It is not relevant whether or not the CCP are comfortable with the idea of introducng multi-party elections - of course they do not want to compete for the right to govern. The point too, isn't whether people like you and me feel as though the two-party system is better than the one-party system. What matters is what most Chinese themselves think, and the reality is that at the moment the overwhelming majority are satisfied with the one-party system, and are either in no hurry or have little interest in adopting a system based on multi-party elections. What matters only is that at present, the majority are satisfied with the present system. The CCP, at present, therefore have a popular mandate to govern and to introduce laws. Period. Whether you personally like China's system or not isn't relevant, is it?

You might not like the idea of authoritarian systems of governance, be it the Chinese model, or the Singaporean model, or whatever. So what? I prefer the system we have in Australia too! But what you and I think is not relevant here. What matters is that most Chinese mainlanders are comfortable with authoritarian systems of governance, they believe in it, and they are satisfied with it - at present at least.

The crucial point that I am making is this: the CCP has a popular mandate, it therefore has a legitimate right to legislate laws and to enforce them. The rest of the world needs to respect that. We may not agree with all of those laws, but the majority of mainland Chinese do. Period.

Mark Anthony Jones

posted by: Mark Anthony Jones on 11.04.05 at 10:54 AM [permalink]

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