Stopping for Tiananmen

Extracted from a post at the Register:

Today, June 4th, is the 24th anniversary of what China calls the “counterrevolutionary riot” in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square .

Much of the rest of the world records the incident as a massacre, after Chinese troops ended protests in the square by dealing out lethal force.

China now represses discussion about the events of 4 June, 1989, and extends restrictions online by declaring today to be “Internet maintenance day”.

Whether sysadmins really do get the day off to install some patches and tune up their servers isn’t known, but on past June 4ths several websites in China do go down for the duration of the day. The under-maintenance sites have included blogs and sites that don’t always toe the party line.

A day or two after the anniversary has passed, the sites promptly finish their maintenance and get back to business.

China doesn’t announce which sites will be undergoing maintenance that conveniently coincides with the anniversary, so it’s not possible to know which publishers will decide to opt for a bit of downtime today.

Mr naive here, on a visit to China a few years back, sat down in his hotel room to plug in his laptop and surf the web. There were difficulties in getting on to certain sites – notably blogs – and there was a certain amount of headscratching until the penny (shekel?) dropped: the authorities were actively blocking access to these ‘undesirable’ sites.

I felt sick. I felt fear. This was the first time in my life I had come face to face with censorship on such a scale. (Co-incidentally, one of my work colleagues reminded me today that YouTube is inaccessible from mainland China unless you use a proxy server.) My freedom was being curtailed and I did not like it one bit.

This up to date representation of what the authorities in China get up to is both laughable and offensive.

Who is doing anything meaningful to change the situation?