In an effort to make new friends and increase traffic to her movie reviews website, my wife spent the weekend visiting similar blogs by mainland Chinese citizens. Some of the reviews sites are of surprisingly high quality, and it’s good to see that some Chinese at least have access to an impressively diverse selection of films, much more so than is available in Malaysia I think.
However, when some of the Chinese expressed an interest in reading more of my wife’s reviews, we discovered that they couldn’t. At first we thought that it was because internet connections to sites outside China were restricted by the schools of some of the Chinese, but we later discovered that it was a more general problem. Apparently, none of the Chinese who wanted to visit my wife’s blog could do so.
After some googling, I discovered this list of notable websites blocked in China on Wikipedia. This confirms that the hosting company I use, BlueHost, is banned. More shockingly, just about every free blog website seems to be banned too, including Blogspot, WordPress.com, LiveJournal and Xanga. Even Wikipedia, which is about as neutral a source of information as you can get since anyone can edit anything on it, is banned, as is the Project Gutenberg, which is simply a website to make available for free books that have passed out of copyright.
Most of us know of what is colloquially known as the Great Firewall of China, but this is the first time that I’ve run into it personally, and for me, this rams home the vast scale of the censorship being carried out. As a libertarian, I believe in high levels of personal freedom for everyone everywhere but many Malaysians that I know tend to excuse such dictatorial practices in China as an acceptable price to pay for social stability and prosperity, or at least turn a blind eye to it.
But the truth is that no society can ever really be stable and peaceful until its leaders are enlightened enough and mature enough to allow criticism against them, even if they disagree with the criticisms. This is true for China and it is true for Malaysia as well.