China: Controls on the Internet

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Date: 2000 - present

Region: Asia

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Electronic Media


Artist: Foreign news sites, Internet sites, individual email accounts, a computer engineer named Huang Qi.

Confronting Bodies: A special Internet police, the Ministry of State Security.

Dates of Action: June 2000, March 2001, and ongoing.

Location: China

Description of Artwork: Internet sites posting information on corruption or articles critical of government; bulletin boards critical of the government; Huang Qi's electronic bulletin board to help trace missing persons, then used in 2000 to post messages on the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Yang Zili, while a student, had set up a discussion group, and he also ran a website for exchange of ideas among intellectuals which was shut down after his arrest.

The Incident: Censorship of foreign news sites, the creation of special Internet police, and actions to shut down Internet sites posting information on corruption or articles critical of government. Internet cafes are required to register and inform the police about their customers. The Ministry of State Security has installed tracking devices on Internet service providers to monitor individual email accounts. And bulletin boards critical of the government have been shut down. Huang Qi, in Chengdu, Sichuan province, was detained for setting up China's first domestic human rights web site. Yang Zili, another young computer specialist, was detained in Beijing by state security officials; his present whereabouts and legal status are unknown.

Results of Incident: No company was willing to intervene in Huang Qi's case, even privately, with Chinese officials. Human rights watch also asked the World Bank to intervene, since the Bank says it is interested in promoting more openness in China through free exchange of information via the Internet. When Huang Qi went on trial in February, the American consulate in Chengdu and the European Union tried to send diplomatic observers to the trial, but they were turned away. The trial was suddenly adjourned when Huang Qi was taken ill. It has yet to resume.

Source: Human Rights Watch