By B. Raman
Anti-Chinese Communist Party dissidents based abroad have unleashed a web campaign against the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In hundreds of messages directed to the Chinese people, they have been disseminating details of the people’s uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and asking the Chinese to rise in revolt to secure democracy and human rights and end to their economic hardships. Tibetans and Uighurs based abroad have also joined in this web-based bombardment.
Coinciding with this campaign, Western intelligence agencies are re-shaping their psywar directed against China. Instead of spending money on TV and radio programmes beamed to China, they have started focussing on the use of the Internet as a platform for their psywar.
Mrs. Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, has in a speech on February 15 called for end to Net censorship. She urged governments around the world to end Internet censorship, or risk the kind of social and political unrest sweeping through the Middle East. She also pledged strong U.S. support for cyber-dissidents worldwide who wish to circumvent government censorship and protect themselves from reprisals.
Enraged by her remarks, Ma Zhaoxu, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Office, said on February 17: “We are opposed to any country using Internet freedom as a pretext for interference in Chinese affairs. Internet freedom in China is guaranteed by law, and China wishes to step up and strengthen dialogue and communication with other countries about relevant matters concerning the Internet.”
Radio Free Asia, funded by the US State Department, has broadcast the following: “Postings promoting Clinton’s speech to the microblog account of the U.S. embassy in Beijing were blocked by China’s system of Internet blocks and filters called the Great Firewall, or GFW. One post on Chinese microblogging site Tencent Weibo by U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Hunstman quoted Mrs. Clinton’s remarks that “Liberty and security are often presented as equal and opposite,” and asked: “What do you think is more important, liberty or security?” Another post questioned whether other users agreed with Mrs. Clinton that “freedoms to assemble and associate also apply in cyberspace.”
The embassy has been using microblogs and other online services in China in an effort to connect with Chinese citizens. Online searches for the word “Hillary” in Chinese were also reportedly blocked on at least one site. “We are disappointed that some Chinese Internet sites have decided to remove discussion of Secretary Clinton’s Internet Freedom speech from their websites,” Huntsman said in a statement. “It is ironic that the Chinese are blocking an online discussion about Internet freedom.” Clinton had also singled out the role of social networking sites Twitter and Facebook in organizing protests in the Middle East. Both sites are blocked in China, although there are homegrown, censored, equivalents.”
The Radio has further reported: “Beijing routinely blocks the websites of foreign news organizations, including RFA, and filters keywords that it regards as “sensitive,” including search terms for the uprising that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Under U.S.-backed proposals, circumvention tools will be made more widely available to countries lacking free Internet access, while bloggers and rights activists will receive training about how to secure their e-mail from surveillance or wipe incriminating data from cell phones if they are detained. Chinese activists and bloggers have expressed mixed feelings about events in the Middle East, according to prominent blogger Yang Hengjun. “The mood is partly happy … that democracy can come so quickly, but also sad about when it is ever going to come to China,” Yang said. “I think the two moods are entwined together … among ordinary Chinese people.”
The seriousness of the Chinese concerns over the dangers of a Net-spawn uprising in China against the CCP became evident on February 19 when Chinese President Hu Jintao called for stricter government management of the Internet. Hu told a meeting attended by top Communist Party leaders at a party school in Beijing that despite rising prosperity, China was facing deepening social conflicts that would test the party’s ability to maintain firm control. Without mentioning developments in Tunisia and Egypt, Hu told Chinese officials they needed to come to grips with “virtual society” in their nation with some 450 million Internet users. “At present, our country has an important strategic window for development, but is also in a period of magnified social conflicts.” Among the steps Beijing had to take to counter these risks, Hu said, one was “further strengthening and improving management of the Internet, improving the standard of management of virtual society, and establishing mechanisms to guide online public opinion.”
His comments came as messages spread across foreign web sites of Han dissidents and Tibetan and Uighur freedom-fighters calling for gatherings across China on February 20 to demand sweeping democratic reforms inspired by the “Jasmine Revolution” in the Middle East.
Cairo Lava Flowing in Unexpected Directions
By B. Raman
The lava from the people’s volcano in Egypt has started flowing in unexpected directions.
2. It did flow to Yemen and Algeria as widely expected, but on February 14 it started flowing in a totally unexpected direction towards Iran—a non-Arab country.
3. It is no longer a purely Arab anger. It is no longer a Muslim anger towards the West and Israel as Al Qaeda and the Ayatollahs of Iran had wanted it to be.
4. It has become the anger of the masses wherever people’s rights are suppressed and people are subjected to hardships by uncaring rulers. One does not know when the lava will lose speed and stop and in which directions it will flow. Before it stops, the world is going to see changes in the political landscape of all countries where people are suppressed—- whether Arab or non-Arab, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, whether West, South or East Asia, whether Myanmarese or the Hans. The lava is going to be no respecter of rulers and regimes and their religion.
5. It could sweep everything before it. It could temporarily damage the global economy yet to recover fully from the recent economic melt-down.
6. We in India cannot afford to be over-confident that it can’t affect us. It can. If it does due to our insensitivity and self-complacency, it will not have a pan-Indian impact. It will be an impact felt in some pockets where there is already people’s anger as in the North-East or Jammu & Kashmir or in the tribal areas of central India.
7. We have to be alert. Being alert does not mean more security forces. It means actions to monitor the grievances and anger of the people and timely steps to address them.
8. If the protests succeed in Yemen and Algeria, the impact on India will most probably be minimal. If they succeed in Iran, the impact could be considerable. It could become worse if the lava further flows into Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
9. There were protests in Iran on February 14 in solidarity with the Egyptian people. There have been calls for more protests on February 15.
10. The Mubarak regime committed a serious mistake in underestimating the force of the people’s anger. The Iranian regime will be committing a similar mistake if it under-estimates the force of the anger of its people.