Free internet

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On December 18, 2012 China’s government backed People’s Daily published an article on the front page titled “The Internet is Not Outside the Law”. The article said:

the internet is as much a tool of rumor and misinformation as a platform for information sharing, and everyone must be as responsible and law-abiding online as they are offline.

This piece was soon broadcast on China’s state broadcaster CCTV. On the next day, People’s Daily reinforced its opinion with another piece [zh]: “Internet Supervision in Accordance with the International Practice.”

Both pieces are being seen as a warning to Chinese web users. Most netizens feel disappointed by the cautious note and are worried that there will be more censorship online in the future. Many netizens critized the articles with retorts aimed at the government. Below are some comments from well-known commentators and bloggers on Weibo, China’s Twitter.

Vanishing Hope

韩志国: The honeymoon period has ended, People’s Daily pieces directly point at anti-corruption on Weibo. Among the expectation and cheers, we’ve heard the sabre-rattling. Various voices on the microblogging can be dealt with through the law instead of having to adopt the traditional way. Despite the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences report that microblogging is more credible than CCTV news, the development and space on microblogging is very limited, so do not place high expectations on it.

大兵看世界:Is this the beginning of reform, or has it already come to an end? When we gather our hopes, we have to think of the disappointment and just hope the disappointment doesn’t come too soon. Weibo is not outside the law, but I hope it won’t become a platform to sing praise! The Internet is a new social force that has had too much hope placed upon it. One day, all hopes are crushed. What else can we hope for?

李庆松:What message does it deliver? Supervision, control, or censorship. [The Internet] is the last platform for an ordinary citizen to participate in social supervision. Will this be ruthlessly banned by the government? Democracy? How can we talk about democracy in this society? It’s sad.

Aurora-trying_to_balance: How can we talk about freedom of speech? ! The piece came out right after a few anti-corruption cases online. A few people come out to speak the truth, then Sina immediately tries to harmonize! Under such tight control of news and media, it’s hard for Chinese people to gain freedom of speech in a real sense.

Retorts at the Government

许小年:[If you follow international practice], what about the practice of Facebook and Twitter?[Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China]

赵楚 :Yes, in accordance with the rule of law, there is no area that is outside the law. But I’m here to tell CCTV and People’s Daily: the government office buildings, as well as a variety of the heavily guarded secret places belonging to government officials, together with you two, state-run media, shouldn’t be outside of the law.

贺江兵:When it comes to the control of people, they practice international standards; but when speaking of Chinese officials’ property and unlawful conduct, they talk about Chinese characteristics. With the double standards, how can a state run media gain the trust of the public? Will you publish another two pieces: “The Public Disclosure of an Official’s Wealth is Accordance with International Practice” and “The Land of Officialdom is Not Outside the Law”?

Another interpretation:

琢磨先生:Recent CCTV news and People’s Daily stressed that the internet is not outside the law, which is a warning to the microblogging watchers and censors: citizens have freedom of speech, please do not delete posts, or you will be held liable.

Although netizens are fully aware that censoring microbloggs is a government initiative, they show support for the satirical interpreation, one netizen wrote:

火星人草帽仔:Its understanding is so funny. Find happiness in adversity.

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