Friday, May 25, 2007
Blogging with difficulty from China
Shanghai, China, May 2007 [Click to enlarge]
We take many things for granted in this free society of ours. Freedom to communicate is one of them. We assume that the channels we use to fling messages back and forth will always be open, unencumbered by any kind of authoritarian, autocratic rule that would impede our ability to express ourselves as we wish.
Until every country on the planet is a democracy, that assumption would be a false one. I learned fairly quickly when I first logged in that some services are deliberately compromised by the government.
I've often been quoted about search engine firms like Google and their efforts to crack the Chinese market. I've spoken about how these firms have agreed to compromise some of their innate secrecy by limiting some services and sharing other data with the government. My contention has been that these compromises may seem abhorrent to freedom-loving observers, but they are the cost of doing business here. If you don't bow to the government's will, you don't work here at all.
So it was with little surprise that, when I first logged into my blog admin interface, I was presented with unintelligible question marks where all the links should have been. Some worked, some did not...the Great Firewall of China was apparently doing its thing to limit people's - and my - ability to blog from here.
With difficulty, I managed to publish the entries that I had prewritten and saved as drafts. But I felt like a prizefighter with one hand tied behind his back. I knew I'd have all my accesses back as soon as I returned home, so it didn't concern me all that much. But then I thought about folks who live here, who must deal with these limitations constantly.
Your turn: What about them? What must it be like to have one's voice suppressed?
Update - May 29, 2007: CNet's Michael Kanellos is in Beijing to attend a technology expo. He filed this insightful piece, How good are the censors in China? I think I'll be sending him the link to this entry.