Oslo (AsiaNews) China has set up the "most extensive and expensive censorship of any other country in the world" targeting foreign-based religious-oriented websites, this according to Forum 18, a Norwegian-based online Christian News Service which conducted a two-month survey of Chinese government's internet monitoring. Its findings show that Chinese authorities have placed a tight lid on sites which focus on Christian groups and other minorities persecuted in China because they are deemed a threat to the country's political and social stability and territorial integrity.
The survey was conducted from mid-May to mid-July including the key date of June 4, 15th anniversary of the Tianamen massacre. It entailed checking internet access in different locations within China. It showed that China's Golden Shield Firewall prevented survey participants from accessing sites that dealt with the persecution of Catholics and Protestants, the Dalai Lama, the Falun Gong religious movement, and the Muslim Uygurs of Xinjiang.
Here are some sites blocked because they expose persecutions against Christians in general and Catholics in particular. First of all,
● AsiaNews (whose blocking had already been reported);
some US-based websites such as
● Free Church for China,
● Free the Fathers (which focuses on the conditions of Catholic clergymen who refused to register with the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association),
● China Aid Association, (which reports on the repression of local Protestant churches),
● and the Committee for the Investigation of Persecution of Religious in China (mostly in Chinese and English).
The survey also showed that it was also impossible to consult the site of the Taiwan-based Society of the Divine Word (Verbites) or that of the Hong Kong Diocese. Sources indicate that this last site was blocked as soon as relations between Hong Kong's Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and the Chinese government started deteriorating.
Many other sites have been blocked because they report acts of persecution against other religious movements or groups; among them, those of Falung Gong:
those directly or indirectly linked to the Dalai Lama:
● www.dalailama.org (this is a commercial site that has no connection to Tibet's spiritual leader);
those linked to Hizb-ut-Tahrir (Liberation Party), an Islamist political movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the caliphate on the whole world:
The authorities have also blocked search engines like Google and web portals like Yahoo to avoid unwelcome fact finding and information gathering in English or Chinese.
The survey did find that access to apparently unthreatening religious-oriented or Catholic sites was possible. Among the latter:
● the site of the Vatican,
● the Vatican agency Fides (which authorities had blocked in 1998 when it launched its Chinese version arguing that it was "interfering in the internal affairs, religious affairs included, of China"),
● the Chinese-language service of Vatican Radio,
● Taiwan-based Radio Veritas.
Despite the censorship, it is possible to visit sites that present the Holy Scriptures or sacred texts of different religions, those that speak positively of the status of religion in China, and those that expose religious persecution in other countries.
None the less, the Chinese authorities have pushed web censorship a step further by launching in June a campaign urging netizens to turn cybersnitches and report "unlawful" websites to a site sponsored by the Internet News and Information Service Working Committee of the China Internet Association. Would-be cybersnitches are asked to give their names and address and indicate the type of content violation choosing from a list of offences that includes
● promoting cults,
● violating constitutional principles,
● attacking the Communist Party and the government,
● flouting social morality.
Internet censorship is part and parcel of the government's policy to keep information and communication media under its tight control and for this reason the authorities have more recently sounded the alarm against "subversive" cellphone SMS (Short Messaging Service) messages. (ThR)