China has succeeded in blocking the flow of news about its crackdown on Tibetan protesters.
While China has traditionally exerted strong control over traditional media outlets such as television, radio and newspapers, this week's developments are notable for the country's effective control of YouTube, blogs and other Internet communications.
While Western news outlets are getting information out to the rest of the world, many Chinese remain in the dark. The Wall Street Journal reported that Baidu.com, China's largest search engine, turns up no news in a search for "Tibet" (the
fifth most popular search term on Baidu Monday), while searches for "Tibet riot" produce hits to pages that have been removed.
In addition, China's major Internet portals, Sina and Sohu.com, are devoid of news of the uprising and repression. And Chinese Internet video sites Tudou.com, Youku.com and 56.com, the Chinese equivalents of YouTube, are similarly vacant.
Observers are not completely sure how China is blocking all the news, the Journal reported. In some cases, entire domains are blocked; in other cases, only certain pages. While editors of state-run media frequently avoid controversial topics, independent
Internet companies also cooperate with censorship; they are required to monitor user-supplied content Relevant Products/Services and delete pornography, as well as a list of forbidden topics.
The censorship raises a challenge to the much-vaunted claim that the Internet views censorship as network damage and routes around it, a claim no less a technology luminary than Bill Gates repeated last month: I don't see any risk in the world at
large that someone will restrict free content flow on the Internet. You cannot control the Internet .
Wikileaks has released 35 censored videos relating to the Chinese suppression of dissent in Tibet and has called on bloggers around the world to help drive the footage through the so called "Great Firewall of China".
The transparency group's move comes as a response to the the Chinese Public Security Bureau's carte-blanche censorship of youtube, the BBC, CNN, the Guardian and other sites carrying video footage of the Tibetan people's recent heroic stand against the
inhumane Chinese occupation of Tibet.
Wikileaks has also placed the collection in two easy to use archives together with a HTML index page so they may be easily copied, placed on websites, emailed across the internet as attachments and uploaded to peer to peer networks.
Censorship, like communism, seems like a reasonable enough idea to begin with. While 'from each according to his ability and to each according to his need' sounds unarguable, the world has learned that these words call forth a power elite to administer
them with coercive force. Such elites are quick to define the needs of their own members as paramount. Similarly 'from each mouth according to its ability and to each ear according to its need' seems harmless enough, but history shows that censorship
also requires an anointed class to define this "need" and to make violence against those who continue talking. Such power is quickly corrupted.
Earlier this week the Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, sent a formal letter of complaint to the Chinese embassy in London calling for access to the Guardian website to be restored and "henceforth unfettered".
Chinese authorities can censor online content internally using either an outright block on a specific website address, or using filtering technology that restricts access to individual online articles containing key words such as "Tibet" and
It has not been clear which technical restrictions the Chinese authorities have been using against international news websites.
However, according to reports from several internet users in China, the censorship appears to have become less draconian this week compared to the weekend, when the worst of the unrest in Tibet was taking place.
Videos on the Guardian website that had previously been inaccessible can now be viewed in China and users in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guilin have been able to access a range of online news stories on Tibet.
One Chinese technology blogger said that while access has improved it does not necessarily mean that the authorities have relented: Suppose there is less access from Chinese readers once they felt the site is hard to access. The censorship system will
turn to other hot sites with higher sensitive hits automatically.
Since April Chinese authorities have been removing satellite TV antennas in Tibetan regions to prevent access to foreign broadcasts.
Local sources indicate that for months now, teams of technicians are working to install cable lines for television and to remove the satellite dishes. Only government approved programs are broadcast on cable TV, while the satellite antennas make
it possible to receive foreign programs such as RFA or Voice of America.
Faced with protests by residents, the television technicians respond that the order comes directly from the central authorities.
A film-maker has been jailed in China for six years for making a documentary in which ordinary Tibetans praised the Dalai Lama.
The film, Leaving Fear Behind , was shot by Dhondup Wangchen, a Tibetan from a poor farming family in western Qinghai province, and his friend Golog Jigme Gyatso, a monk. The two men had spent several months before the 2008 Beijing Olympics
interviewing Tibetans about the upcoming games and their views of the Chinese Government.
The 108 Tibetans spoke with remarkable openness in the interviews and had agreed to show their faces on camera.
The pair had finished shooting the documentary and smuggled the tapes out of Tibet when a riot erupted in the capital, Lhasa, in March 2008. They were arrested a few days later as unrest spread rapidly through Tibetan-populated regions of China.
On December 28 Wangchen, 35, was sentenced to six years in prison by a court in the western city of Xining. The trial received no publicity and his family were not informed. News of his prison term was finally relayed out of the country to friends
and relatives who had been campaigning for nearly two years for his release.
Before making the documentary, Wangchen said: The idea of our film is not to get famous or to give entertainment. It is very difficult to go to Beijing and speak out there. So that is why we decided to show the real feelings of Tibetans inside
Tibet through this film.
A statement on www.leavingfearbehind.com, where footage can be downloaded, said that Mr Wangchen had not been allowed outside legal aid and that the Government had barred a lawyer hired by his family from representing him. His wife, Lhamo Tso,
said: I appeal to the court in Xining to allow my husband to have a legal representative of his own choosing.