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Finding Zhao Ziyang through the Golden Shield

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Part 1 was designed to show why Chinese authorities have taken swift steps to reduce public news of Zhao's death, to minimize public reaction to the death of a man "remembered by many Chinese, officials and public alike, as a scapegoat," and to avoid anti-government protests by those disillusioned by rapid economic and social changes and remembering a warmly remembered leader "seen to have been wronged by those currently in power."

In the past, displays of grief for reformist leaders have served as an outlet for protests about the current leadership. In fact the huge protests in 1989 that led to Zhao Ziyang's downfall spiralled out of mourning for another leader, Hu Yaobang… Zhao Ziyang's long absence from public life had not neutered his symbolism. "In China people can sometimes not be mentioned for years and years, and in turns out they're in everybody's minds."

Short of a brief release Zhao's death by the official Xinhua news agency, there has been a news blackout on state-run TV and newspapers while sources outside China have been blocked. The Chinese domestic response to the blackout has been internet bulletin boards, chat rooms, and blogs. Even the direct notice of Zhao's death by his daughter, Wand Yannan, came out by text message, "My father is finally free."

Bulletin boards have been the main outlet for citizens wanting to voice their opinions, and most of the postings have been written in sorrow. "Time will vindicate him," said one. "We will miss you forever," said another. "Why can't we mourn a person's passing?" asked a third. All were deleted speedily by chatroom monitors.

Those chatroom monitors are part of the Golden Shield, Jin Dun, a system that generates widely dissenting opinions. Commenced in 1998 and to be completed in 2006, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) states that its "is to construct a communication network and computer information system for police to improve their capability and efficiency":

Comrade Jiang Zemin [the former leader of China] emphasised that ‘security of information and network ensures the security of China’. … Golden Shield intends to build an electronic police system in the Public Security sector which includes constructing a powerful team of cyber police.

[up] to 2002, the preliminary work of the Golden Shield Project cost US$800 million. On 6 December 2002, 300 people in charge of the Golden Shield project from 31 provinces and cities throughout China participated in a four-day inaugural "Comprehensive Exhibition on Chinese Information System". At the exhibition, many western high-tech products focusing on the solution strategies of the Golden Shield, including Internet security, video monitoring and human face recognition, were purchased. With regard to human resources, it is estimated that around 30,000 police are employed in this gigantic monitoring and censorship apparatus.

What the CCP sees as a strategic tool is seen by others as the "Great Firewall of China," seeking to become an "ubiquitous architecture of surveillance. For now, it uses a variety of methods starting with Chinese backbone routers that blocked a list of objectionable web addresses combined with filtering technology searching for objectionable words and a tracking system to identify offenders. Failed searches with sensitive terms do not even send back error messages. Internet-service firms add "their own censoring, removing provocative comments and blocking messages deemed sensitive." Moving on, newer Chinese instant-messaging services are allegedly requiring users "to download software to their PCs that contains a filtering mechanism." Chinese hackers who unlocked a program dll of QQ "found a list of banned key words, one analysis of [which] estimated that 15% of the forbidden terms are sexual while the rest are political, including the names of Chinese leaders and words including "human rights" and "dictatorship."

Having been barred from China, Google responded with a version that disabled its cache function, blocked objectionables, becoming "a form of geolocation filtering since users who access Chinese Language Google News from anywhere but China are not subjected to the filtering and receive full search results."

Yet some researchers say that "China's firewall is porous, and intentionally so. The idea isn't to seal China off [but to make] the system is designed to make it prohibitively difficult to access or disseminate objectionable content." An open market theory says that the "best ideas will succeed in the market, so in China, even if all of the sites are not accessible, the best sites that are accessible will be found."

Volunteer groups such as GardenNetworks (from "let a hundred flowers blossom") release anti-blocking software (proxy tools with encryption) to allow Chinese Internet users to gain access to blocked sites:

In March 2003, while the government concealed facts regarding the SARS outbreak in China, the number of anti-blocking software users increased more than tenfold, and currently, estimated 250,000 Chinese users use anti-blocking software, including Garden, to access the Internet.

The 'blog' revolution sweeps across China
Posted by Xiao Qiang at 09:33 PM
China Digital News
November 25, 2004

Breaking Through the "Golden Shield"
Jack He
Garden Networks

Gordon Housworth



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