As the 20th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on demonstrators at Tiananmen Square approaches tomorrow, the Chinese government is taking extreme measures to stop potential commemorations or protests. Dissidents are being rounded up and shipped out of Beijing, and internet users throughout China awoke yesterday to find that the popular text messaging service Twitter, photo-sharing site Flickr and Hotmail were all blocked. The government apparently began shutting down user-generated websites months ago. According to the Guardian:
Blogger.com was blocked last month and YouTube has been inaccessible from the mainland since March.
Internet monitors have also shut down message boards on more than 6,000 websites affiliated with colleges and universities, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.
The clampdown, however, is reportedly not foolproof. One website that covers happenings in China reports that these blocked sites can still be accessed through a software proxy, virtual private network (VPN), or a service that “converts the requested URL into an encoded string.” While I’m not tech savvy enough to really understand what any of these options are, the fact that they exist shows that struggle for internet freedom in China, which has the world’s largest online population, is far from over.
From a strategic perspective, this draconian move by the government is bound to backfire in the long run. Such blatant censorship will only make the Chinese more aware of their lack of free speech and encourage resistance.
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Waging Nonviolence is a leading publication on social movements around the world, and we’re looking to expand our coverage and work with new writers.