Chinese search alternative voices under strong censorship


Does China sound mysterious to you? If it does, don’t worry, because it’s mysterious to its own citizens too, especially when they wonder about something, type it in a search engine and all they get is “404 Not Found.” 

Photo courtesy of censorship309.wordpress.com.

I don’t remember how many times I was asked in America if people could access Facebook in China. You can’t, and just to make it clear, you can’t access Facebook, YouTube or Twitter either, and sometimes even Wikipedia will go blank if people try to search something “sensitive,” like Dalai Lama.

China is well known for its strong censorship of media, and the overall brutal suppression of freedom of speech. By blocking global social networking sites, China stops information and alternative voices from flowing in so that people can firmly believe what the government tells them.

It is a strategy many emperors have practiced throughout China’s thousands of years of history. It is to fool the people and keep them in the dark on controversial issues that would arouse actions to dictate them, all in the name of maintaining stability of its nation and keeping its people together.

One hundred years after China overthrew its last monarch, Chinese leaders today are still not changing their minds about suppressing free flow of information.

They planted this slogan-like obligation of “maintaining stability of the nation and keeping people together” deeply in people’s minds and it has become a legitimate reason to punish those who don’t obey it and label them “evil separatists.” But the subtext is to really maintain stability of the communist party and keep people under its control.

However, this is an era of information explosion, globally. People are thirsty for knowledge no matter if it is in the U.S., China or elsewhere. This is also an era of the Internet. Blocking only some English websites won’t make Chinese people stop wanting to know and speak the language.

Sina Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, has reached 140 million registered users since it was launched in 2009. The power of Weibo is massive and it’s considered a place where people can express their thoughts freely, particularly criticisms of the government.

Recently, however, the Chinese government asked Weibo to suspend users’ accounts who are accused of spreading rumors. Weibo even established a “rumor refuting” page to correct the misleading information on particular issues.

Unfortunately, a lot of people in China don’t seem capable of differentiating between the truth and rumors. They believe whatever they see on these social networking sites and will pass the information down.

One general reason this applies everywhere is because people nowadays don’t bother to verify their information. What’s different in China is that people are disappointed with authorities and the state-controlled media, but at the same time desperate for knowledge. Now they would rather believe anything against the government.

But can these be reasons for the government to take away a person’s right to know or speak?

I hope that can never be, because it’s not the peoples’ fault for not knowing how to differentiate between truth and rumors. They were never educated to ask if their rights were sacrificed for something else.

The people of China are not in a society that allows different perspectives, so where can they gain the ability if they don’t have the information to make judgments on?

But now, through this chaotic information explosion era, it is our time to learn.

China, please hear our voice. Don’t say that your people are vulnerable, because it is you that doesn’t make them strong.