• 2005-02-11

    Opinion story, Cencorship in China


    Since the earlier 1980s, China has been opening up to the world as it adopted economic reform aimed at building a market economy. Hot money floods in. Various products are exported to the world. Cable TVs, radio stations and newspapers mushroom. Like Americans, Koreans and Japanese do, youngsters in Chinese cities wear almost the same excessively big T-shirts and baggy pants, and have their hair dyed in all kinds of colors. 
    But if you think the door is completely open and everything flows freely, you are wrong. In China, if you type in www.time.com on a computer connected to the Internet, you will find no page can be opened. If you try to tune in to the short-wave program of the Voice of America in Chinese language, you hear the Voice engulfed in noisy play of a Chinese woodwind instrument called suona. If you walk out of the luxury hotel and visit a Chinese friend’s home, you will find channels like CNN or BBC are no longer seen. It is not that the Internet connection breaks down, or the radio signals are too weak, or the Chinese people do not want to watch the satellite news program. They are simply blocked, jammed or cut off from Chinese people.
    The Time magazine is believed to be hostile to the ruling Communist Party of China. The VOA is seen as a foreign mouthpiece “dreaming of peacefully transforming China into a capitalist country.” As for CNN or BBC, I don’t know. Any organization which wants to install a satellite disc, like a university or a newspaper, must first apply for a license from China Radio and Television Broadcast Bureau. The ordinary citizens? No way.
    But Why?
    Do you think the Chinese people are just credulous fools that anybody could talk them into rebelling against the authority? Are the reports on American media really so malicious or ill-minded, or are they merely biased or lacking objectivity? Ok. If the cold-war sentiment of keeping on watch of anti-Communism intentions makes some sense, what about the censorship among our own people?
    When covering news about the state leaders, the mass media can comment nothing but report what they said. They are afraid to “make political mistakes.” In Internet chatrooms or message boards, words like democracy or the former president’s name Jiang Zemin will be automatically deleted or the whole message blocked. The ban does not only apply to politics. The initial number of people infected with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), for example, was not disclosed at first last year until rumors of the deadly disease flew all over and a doctor stood out to tell the truth to foreign media. Why are they doing this? This time, the catchword is stability.
    “Stability prevails over everything,” China’s paramount former leader stated. It is true that a stable and peaceful political environment will guarantee the continuing growth of economy and improvement of people’s living standards. But the Chinese government apparently lacks confidence of its people. They do not understand that in a open world, information from not only the positive side, but also the negative side, will do no harm to a society governed by the law. The balanced reports will only help people sharpen their eyes and make their own conclusion of right or wrong.
    Chinese journalistic theory, mouthpiece and tool