CHINA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net Members of religious and ethnic minorities are also targeted for their online activities. In the aftermath of ethnic violence in Xinjiang in July 2009, the authorities arrested the managers of websites reporting on Uighur issues or serving as forums for discussion between Han and Uighurs, including Ilham Tohti, Hailaite Niyazi (a.k.a. Gheyret Niyaz), and Dilixiati Paerhati. Tohti was released after six weeks, but90 Niyazi was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment in July on charges of “endangering state security” and the whereabouts of Paerhati remained unclear as of the end of 2010.91 In December 2010, news emerged that eight months earlier, two individuals working for the Uighur-language website Salkin were sentenced to life imprisonment for translating and reposting an online appeal to protest Han-Uighur clashes at a factory in Guangdong province in July 2009.Tibetans and Falun Gong practitioners who transmit information abroad often suffer repercussions, while some have been arrested solely for accessing or quietly disseminating banned information. In August 2009, 19-year-old Pasang Norbu was reportedly detained at a Lhasa cybercafe after looking at online photos of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan flag.In recent years, local officials have increasingly resorted to criminal defamation charges to detain, and in some cases imprison, whistleblowers who post corruption allegations online. In one high-profile case, online activist Wu Baoquan was sentenced in September 2009 to 18 months in prison for defamation after he posted allegations that local officials in Inner Mongolia had forced people off their land and then reaped the profits from its sale to developers. In another case, authorities detained six bloggers in Fujian province in July 2009 after they reported that a young woman had died after being gang-raped by individuals with ties to local officials and criminal groups. While some of the bloggers were released, three—Fan Yanqiong, Wu Huaying, and You Jingyou—were sentenced in April 2010 to between one and two years in prison on charges of posting “false allegations with Christopher Bodeen, “China food safety activist given 2 1/2 years,” Yahoo News, November 10, 2010, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101110/ap_on_re_as/as_china_tainted_milk_trial.
“Jailed China Milk Activist Free on Parole, Supporters Worry,” Sino Daily, December 29, 2010, http://www.sinodaily.com/reports/Jailed_China_milk_activist_free_on_parole_supporters_worry_999.html.
Michael Wines, “Without Explanation, China Releases 3 Activists,” New York Times, August 23, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/24/world/asia/24china.html.
“China Sentences Uighur Journalist to 15 years,” Committee to Protect Journalists, July 26, 2010, http://cpj.org/2010/07/china-sentences-uighur-journalist-to-15-years.php; "A Public Letter by Chinese Citizens Urging the Release of Uyghur Journalist Hailaite Niyazi,” Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), http://chrdnet.org/2010/07/30/apublic-letter-by-chinese-citizens-urging-the-release-of-uyghur-journalist-hailaite-niyazi/; “Scholars Call for Release of Reporter to Respect Freedom of Expression,” CVN Beijing, July 30, 2010, http://news.boxun.com/news/gb/china/2010/07/201007302150.shtml.
Edward Wong, “Editor Said to Get Life Sentence for Uighur Reports,” New York Times, December 24, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/25/world/asia/25uighur.html_r=1&scp=11&sq=china&st=nyt.
Reporters Without Borders, “Authorities Tighten Grip on Tibetan Websites and Readers,” news release, September 9, 2009, http://en.rsf.org/china-authorities-tighten-grip-on-09-09-2009,34434.html; Reporters Without Borders, “Three Years in Jail for Posting Dalai Lama Photos Online,” news release, December 4, 2009, http://en.rsf.org/china-three-years-in-jail-forposting-04-12-2009,34808.
CHINA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net intent to harm.”94 In late 2010, several cases also emerged of individuals facing prosecution and imprisonment for posting to social-networking platforms. Most notably, in November, Cheng Jianping was sentenced without trial to one year in a “re-education through labor” camp in Henan province for sending a Twitter message that mocked anti-Japanese nationalists by jokingly suggesting they attack the Japanese Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo.95 Later that month, Beijing activist Bai Dongping was detained on charges of “inciting subversion” for posting a photo of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on the popular online forum and chat service QQ; the results of his case were pending at year’s end.According to Reporters Without Borders, at least 70 people were in jail for internetrelated reasons as of February 2010, compared with 49 known cases in 2008, though the actual number of detainees is likely much higher.97 Moreover, prison sentences for online violations tend to be longer in China than in many other countries, often a minimum of three years and sometimes as long as life imprisonment, while punishments elsewhere typically range from six months to four years. Once in custody, detainees frequently suffer abuse, including torture and denial of medical attention. Though the targeted individuals represent a tiny percentage of the overall user population, the harsh sentencing of prominent figures has a chilling effect on the fairly close-knit activist and blogging community, and encourages self-censorship among the broader public.
More common than long-term imprisonment are various forms of extralegal harassment. According to some estimates, thousands of individuals have been summoned for questioning and warned in recent years by security officials, employers, or university representatives.98 For instance, Beijing-based blogger and lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan was contacted by the Justice Bureau in February 2009 because of his online writings in favor of direct elections in the Beijing Lawyer Association.99 Individuals are also regularly taken into detention and held for several days before being released. Such incidents periodically spark a public outcry online, leading to official compensation for the detainee. In March 2009, for example, 24-year-old Wang Shuai Di was detained for eight days for posting satirical articles with photographs criticizing illegal land requisition in Henan Lingbao County.100 His case Reporters Without Borders, “Prison Sentences for Three Bloggers Who Exposed Gang-Rape,” news release, April 16, 2010, http://en.rsf.org/china-prison-sentences-for-three-16-04-2010,37058.html.
Andrew Jacobs, “Chinese Woman Imprisoned for Twitter Message,” New York Times, November 18, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/19/world/asia/19beijing.htmlref=world.
Amnesty International, “China Urged to Release Activist Detained Over Tiananmen Photograph,” news release, December 1, 2010, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/china-urged-release-activist-detained-over-tiananmen-photograph2010-12-01.
Reporters Without Borders, “Internet Censorship Reaches Unprecedented Level,” news release, February 23, 2010, http://en.rsf.org/china-internet-censorship-reaches-23-02-2010,36520.html.
Cara Anna, “China’s Troublemakers Bond Over ‘Drinking Tea,’” Associated Press, March 10, 2010, http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wirestoryid=10062829&page=1.
Oiwan Lam, “China: Beijing Blogger-Lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan Harassed by Authority,” Global Voices Advocacy, February 18, 2009, http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2009/02/18/china-beijing-blogger-lawyer-liu-xiaoyuan-harassed-by-authority/.
Oiwan Lam, “China: Netizen Jailed for 8 Days for Mocking Local Government,” Global Voices Advocacy, April 16, 2009, http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2009/04/16/china-netizen-jailed-for-8-days-for-mocking-local-government/.
CHINA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net soon attracted attention from both the online community and traditional media, and he eventually won an apology from the police and 783.93 yuan (US$115) in compensation.In August 2009, blogger Guo Baofeng, one of those detained in connection with the Fujian rape case, was released following a postcard-writing campaign initiated by fellow online activists.102 Other forms of harassment include restrictions on travel, particularly travel abroad, a measure employed with greater frequency in the run-up to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, as authorities feared Liu’s acquaintances would seek to attend on his behalf. Though physical violence against bloggers is unusual, one such incident drew widespread attention in February 2009. Blogger Xu Lai was stabbed in the stomach by unknown assailants after giving a talk at a Beijing bookshop, and comments made by the attackers indicated that the assault was in response to Xu’s satirical comments online.103 In another episode, prominent blogger and artist Ai Weiwei was beaten in the head in August 2009 by police when visiting Chengdu to testify at the trial of fellow online activist Tan Zuoren; the following month, while visiting Germany, Ai required surgery to address a brain hemorrhage that emerged due to the beating.The space for anonymous online communication in China is steadily shrinking.
Despite surveys showing that some 78 percent of users are opposed to real-name registration, the practice has gained ground in recent years.105 Most major news portals such as Sina, Netease, and Sohu implemented real-name registration for their comment sections during 2009.106 It had already been required in cybercafes, university BBS, and major bloghosting sites.107 An internet content provider (ICP) license from the MIIT is required to establish a personal or corporate website within China, and the process requires applicants Oiwan Lam, “China: Free Wu Baoquan,” Global Voices Advocacy, April 21, 2009, http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2009/04/21/china-free-wu-baoquan/; Wang Jun Xiu, “ Lingbao Shi Gong An Ju Xiang Guan Fu Ze Ren Bei Chu Li, Wang Shuai Huo Pei 783.93 Yuan” [Lingbao County Police Officer Dismissed; Wang Shuai Compensated 783.93 Yuan], April 18, 2009, http://china.rednet.cn/c/2009/04/18/1746296.htm (in Chinese).
Guobin Yang, “The Curious Case of Jia Junpeng, or The Power of Symbolic Appropriation in Chinese Cyberspace,” The China Beat, October 20, 2009, http://www.thechinabeat.org/cat=144; “Postcard Campaign for Detainees,” Radio Free Asia, August 5, 2009, http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/postcardcampaign-08052009094856.html.
Tania Branigan, “Chinese Blogger Xu Lai Stabbed in Beijing Bookshop,” Guardian, February 15, 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/15/china-blogger-xu-lai-stabbed.
Ed Vulliamy, “Ai Weiwei: The rebel who has suffered for his art,” Guardian, October 10, 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2010/oct/10/ai-weiwei-artist-ed-vulliamy “Hu Lian Wang Shi Min Zhi Ying Fa Zhuan Jia Ji Bian” [Internet Real Name System Causes Debate Among Experts], Sina News Survey, July 24, 2010, http://news.survey.sina.com.cn/voteresult.phppid=3101 (in Chinese).
Jonathan Ansfield, “China Web Sites Seeking Users’ Names,” New York Times, September 5, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/world/asia/06chinanet.html; Reporters Without Borders, “Government Crusade Against Online Anonymity,” news release, May 7, 2010, http://en.rsf.org/china-government-crusade-against-online-07-052010,37412.html.
“Wen Hua Bu 2009 Jiang Da Li Zhen Zhi Hu Lian Wang Di Su Zhi Feng” [Ministry of Culture Will Curb Trend of Internet Indecency in 2009], Net Bar China, January 6, 2009, http://www.netbarcn.net/Html/PolicyDynamic/01061954388252.html (in Chinese); Chen Jung Wang, “Shi Min Zhi Rang Gao Xiao BBS Bian Lian” [Real Name System Intimidates High School BBS], CNHubei, November 29, 2009, http://www.cnhubei.com/200511/ca936578.htm (in Chinese); “Zhong Guo Hu Lian Xie Hui:
Bo Ke Tui Xing Shi Min Zhi Yi Chen Ding Ju” [Internet Society of China: Real Name System for Bloggers is Set], Xinhua News, October 22, 2006, http://www.itlearner.com/article/3522 (in Chinese).
CHINA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net to submit personal identification information. Throughout 2009, the ministry tightened enforcement of this requirement,108 reportedly leading to the shutdown of 130,000 websites and especially affecting self-employed workers or freelancers.109 In February 2010, the authorities added a requirement that individuals registering a website have their photograph taken and placed on file.Prior to September 2010, SIM cards for mobile phones could be purchased anonymously, though the transmission of text messages could still be monitored. In late August 2010, MIIT confirmed that beginning September 1, all SIM card purchasers would be required to register with valid ID documents. For users possessing anonymous SIM cards (around 320 million), telecom operators are obliged to help them register within three years.111 The purported reasons for the MIIT to take such measures are the prevalent transmission of fraudulent, pornographic, or spamming messages over mobile phones, but the steps also raised fears of a potential crackdown on those transmitting politically sensitive content. Separately, in January 2010, China Mobile’s Shanghai branch announced that it would begin suspending a mobile phone’s text-messaging function if the user was found to be distributing “vulgar,” “pornographic,” or “other illegal content.”Surveillance of internet communication by security forces is pervasive,113 and in recent years they have focused additional resources on advanced web applications. During the 2009 National Conference for Politics and Legislative Affairs, the Ministry of Public Security proposed strengthening surveillance and control of microblogging and QQ instantmessaging groups, which it considered a seedbed for social unrest.114 In some free expression cases—such as that of democracy activist Guo Quan, sentenced in October Oiwan Lam, “China: Unlicensed Websites Expelled and Blocked,” Global Voices Advocacy, March 4, 2009, http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2009/03/04/china-unlicensed-websites-expelled-and-blocked/; “ICP License Crackdown,” China Hosting Blog, December 6, 2009, http://blog.sinohosting.net/icp-license-crackdown/.
Rebecca MacKinnon, “Google and Internet Control in China.” Donnie Hao Dong, “Wanna Setup a Personal Website in China BEING TAKEN a Portrait Please,” Blawgdog, February 23, 2010, http://english.blawgdog.com/2010/02/wanna-setup-personal-website-in-china.html; Elinor Mills, “China Seeks Identity of Web Site Operators,” CNET News, February 23, 2010, http://news.cnet.com/8301-27080_3-10458420-245.html.