The Chinese government regularly censors Internet content in an effort to diminish the distribution of politically subversive material, but now the communist state is expanding its control and targetting Internet pornography web sites as well. According to a Chinese government official, 221 people have been arrested, and almost 600 web sites have been shut down since March in a crackdown on "obscene" Internet content.
According to Zhao Shiqiang, the vice chief of the Ministry of Public Security’s Internet Security and Supervision bureau, the government is in control, and winning the slow battle against information that government officials consider harmful:
The spread of Web sites that involve pornography has been bought [sic] under effective control. Due to the specialized nature of Internet technology, there are still some places where pornography exists. Harmful information on overseas sites can still be transmitted internally, and a minority of people try to use the Web to carry out illegal activities.
With more than 100 million Internet users, China has the second largest population of web content consumers after the United States. Although the Chinese government promotes web use for business, education, and government activity, the communist regime has committed its resources to crushing web sites that challenge government authority, or distribute content that the government considers to be detrimental to society. Like most other communist states, China and its government have very little respect for civil liberties and personal autonomy. Governments in Europe are disturbed by the destructive and tyrannical behavior of the Chinese government, and several representatives have spoken out against the censorship and other Chinese government policies. Earlier this month, an EU commissioner criticized
Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Google for facilitating oppressive Chinese government censorship, and cooperating with government investigations that have led to the incarceration of dissidents that yearn for freedom and democracy. The Chinese government established some new rules this year that place extraordinarily prohibitive limitations on blogging. The laws ban posts that "instigate illegal gatherings, formation of associations, marches, demonstrations, or disturb social order."
The Chinese government also recently increased surveillance
of mobile phone text messaging, a popular method of communication in China where 383 million individuals use mobile phones. According to Wu Heping, vice minister of the Ministry of Public Security, Chinese law enforcement agents have found 107,000 illegal text messages since the start of November, and have consequently pulled the plug on approximately 9,700 cell phone accounts. The police say that 44 percent of the illegal messages intercepted by police were attempts at banking fraud, but many of the other illegal messages were advertisements for prostitution and pornography services. Journalistic freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders claims that the government is also going after dissidents that use text messaging to organize demonstrations or distribute news censored by the government.
Censorship of Internet pornography is rarely effective. To the dismay
of free speech advocates across the country, United States law enforcement agencies began
to attack web sites with "obscene" content earlier this year. Attorney General Gonazalez and FBI Director Meuller said that the anti-obscenity initiative was one of their "top priorities" for the year. Internet pornography is a massively profitable business, and regulating it will merely push it overseas, depriving the government of valuable tax revenue.
Despite their government’s efforts, the people of China are embracing
progressive sexual practices and creating a society that is tolerant and permissive:
The internet has really fuelled the sexual revolution in China. With more than 100 million internet users and sex education in its infancy, young people turn to the internet for everything from information about sex to pornography, which is illegal in China. In the absence of a pub culture, they also use it to meet partners. Some surveys claim 30 per cent of all one-night stands in China are arranged on the web.
What does the Chinese government do to Internet pornographers? A 20-year-old in eastern China received a 15 year jail sentence for selling downloads of movies with pornographic content. There are some things that simply cannot be repressed. Despite the risk of incarceration, the Chinese people continue to produce and distribute pornographic content. Will the Chinese government continue to arrest hundreds of citizens every year for perpetrating victimless crimes? I doubt that censorship and oppression in China will end any time soon, and I can’t help but wonder if it is an ominous illustration of what Americans can expect to see in the future as our own government continues to enforce unreasonable limitations on free speech with its war against obscenity.