Censorship in China - What Do I Need to Know



The issue of censorship in China is not news to most foreign nationals who have been keeping track of international events.

China's 1.3B population is bestowed with rights to freedom of speech and press under the Constitution. However, regulations on media wherein “the exchange of information endanger the sovereign” are lawful. The grey area lies in the interpretation of the law, which foreign journalists and critics claim to be worded vaguely.

Foreign nationals who wish to move to China or even on short-term visits to the country are encouraged to be well briefed on censorship rules in China. Chinese authorities distribute weekly censorship guidelines to media organisations.

Government ban

The falling out between Google and the Chinese government underscores the strict Internet censorship in the communist country. Satirically known as the “Great Firewall of China,” it blocks certain sites by preventing the IP addresses from being routed through. An IP address to a remote computer is a mailing address to someone sending a letter. Some top websites are blocked including Huffington Post, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Blogspot, Amnesty International, Wikileaks and Human Rights Watch. It is reported that there are approximately 60,000 blocked websites in 2010.

Establishing direct Internet linkage would need to go through government licensed providers, namely China Telecom, GBNet, CERNET or CSTNET. Internet usage in China is highly regulated that any activity or usage of information without consent or defined as “harmful” by authorities is banned.

As of 2009, 726 pornographic websites are blocked in China. This crackdown is not isolated to computer users. In 2010, Chinese authorities announced that the telecommunications industry would be monitored since offensive materials are easier transmitted through mobile phones. Three of the major telecommunication companies have recently announced the monitoring of text messages for “bad content”. Several terms that include hint antigovernment sentiments such as “petition”, “protest” and “human right” are allegedly prohibited.

In light with the rigid censorship in China, virtual private networks (VPN) are popular among citizens and expatriates alike who wish to use the Internet freely. A VPN is used to transmit voice, video or data securely, enables users to bypass Internet restrictions by transporting encrypted network data packets. However, with numerous VPN services turned off by the Chinese government, users are constantly on the hunt for stable VPN websites.
Special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, are not covered by China's censorship policies.