11/13/2014, 00.00
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Beijing arrests engineer who tried to bypass Internet censorship

Xu Dong, 31, had been working on software to bypass the Great Firewall put in place by the Communist government. Accused of supporting Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement, he is being held in Beijing's N. 1 Prison.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Chinese police arrested Xu Dong, a 31-year-old electrical engineer, on 4 November for "picking quarrels and creating disturbances" and supporting Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement. However, the real reason appears to be the software Xu developed to side-step the "Great Firewall of China", a censorship and surveillance project developed for and operated by China's government.

Xu's friend Wu Gan confirmed the engineer's detention. She said that police detained Xu Dong for developing software to help Chinese Internet users go around the government's firewall, alleging that he had "colluded with hostile forces and there is a mastermind behind his work."

The Great Firewall can block thousands of sites containing keywords like "democracy," "Tiananmen", "Tibet", "Dalai Lama", "Falun Gong", "social unrest" or "jasmine revolution".

Any term referring to any other sensitive issue can also be added to the list of censored items and blocked. With this in mind, the government in 2011established a special body, the State Internet Information Office, to bolster its capacity to censor social media.

On 19 October, Xu Dong tweeted, "Defying the communists' fire wall is a long and arduous job at Maple Leaf and Banana [his software "brand"]. We might be limited in our resources, but we have a group of passionate progressives around us." After that, he explained how to go around censorship.

According to Chinese journalists, the Chinese government propaganda offices recently issued orders prohibiting media coverage of the detention of Xu Dong, Xia Lin (a rights lawyer) and He Feihui (general secretary of Liren Libraries), as well as US president Obama's call during the APEC meetings for China to open up the Internet.

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