The closure of the civil rights website Zhonghua Shenzheng (http://www.shenzheng.cn) on the information ministry’s orders since 30 July was condemned today by Reporters Without Borders as yet another case of censorship of the Internet, which is still one of the few ways Chinese can access news and information that have not been vetted by the official agency Xinhua.
“At least 11 websites have been definitively or temporarily closed or blocked since 1 July, while others have been forced to remove content that upset the authorities,” the press freedom organisation said. “We are witnessing a crackdown on the Chinese Internet that could be linked to the preparation of the next Communist Party congress in October.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “The cyber-police and information ministry are intervening with increasing frequence and, in one case, an Internet user was arrested because of an outspoken post about the current flooding in China. Meanwhile, cyber-dissident Zhu Yufu was sentenced to two years in prison on 16 July and online journalist Sun Lin is still being held without trial.”
Zhonghua Shenzheng recently posted two articles that upset the authorities. One was about the trial of Zhu Baoliang, a former policeman turned human rights activist. The second one blamed an incident at a Shanghai auditorium on former President Jiang Zemin’s nephew, Wu Zhiming, who is the city’s public security chief.
“The site has been closed since yesterday afternoon because we have not stopped publishing articles about corruption in the Shanghai government,” Zhonghua Shenzheng editor Shang Yan told Radio Free Asia on 31 July.
Zhonghua Shenzheng’s journalists are determined to continue their work but are not very optimistic about the site’s chances are reopening in the near future. “Although the site is closed, we will still defend the interests of the majority of the population by using our site’s name to publish messages on the Internet,” one of them said.
Chronology of online free speech violations since 1 July:
Early July: An official in the city of Xiamen announces his intention to ban anonymous comments on the Internet
4 July: An order is issued closing the China Development Brief website
9 July: Cyber-dissident Sun Lin is accused of possessing explosives. The trial of Guo Feixiong is adjourned
11 July: Closure of Lu Yang’s “Forum of Contemporary Chinese Poetry” and two of his other forums. The 20,000 Chinese visitors to the Israeli website shvoong (www.shvoong.com) find their access is blocked
12 July: Closure of the chat room on the Mongolian Youth Forum (www.mglzaluus.com/bbs) website
16-22 July: The Maoist website Maoflag (www.maoflag.cn) is closed and then reopened after the withdrawal of a letter criticising the Communist Party leadership.
16 July: Cyber-dissident Zhu Yufu is sentenced to two years in prison.
18 July: Huang Qi’s website, 64Tianwang (www.64tianwang.cn), is forced to close temporarily after being hacked.
26 July: Access is restored to the workers rights website Tongyipianlantianxia (www.blueseasky.cn) after being blocked for two weeks
23-29 July: A young Internet user, Li Xing, is arrested and charged with “disseminating false information and helping to create an atmosphere of panic” about the flooding in the northeast
26 July: The trial of cyber-dissident Guo Feixiong is adjourned for two and a half months for lack of evidence
30 July: Closure of the Zhonghua Shenzheng (www.shenzheng.cn) website