Chinese Crackdown on Internet Content Strengthens, Raises Speculation

Nikki Tang
BEIJING — The ruling Communist Party in China has closed even more websites, bringing the number of closures since Jan. 5 to 726 and raising a number of social questions in scholars and human rights activists.

The crackdown, which is directed at websites containing “vulgar content that violates social morality and damages the physical and mental health of youths,” has resulted not only in website closures, but also in reports of arrests and in a widening gap as to what constitutes “harmful” material.

Speculation about the reason behind the crackdown on what was recently reported as the largest Internet population in the world has followed, prompting a number of social questions regarding the country’s “sensitive” anniversaries of ill-fated social uprisings, including the June Fourth Incident of 1989, the Tibetan uprisings of 1959 and the student protests regarding the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

Another possible reason is the release of the Charter 08, a document calling for massive social and political changes published by more than 300 Chinese human rights activists and intellectuals on Dec. 10, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“All kinds of social conflicts have built up and feelings of discontent intensified,” the charter said. “The current system has become backward to the point that change cannot be avoided. China remains the only large world power to still retain an authoritarian system that infringes on human rights. The situation must change.”

Upon its release, the charter was met with serious suppression by the government, attracting the personal charge of President Hu Jintao and the house raids of Liu Xiaobo and Zhang Zuhua, two of the charter’s main authors. The Ministry of Propaganda also issued a ban on media coverage of the charter, informing TV and print editors of the threats posed by the document and the importance of the ban.

Further details about the closures and arrests had not been announced at time of post.