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Freedom of Speech in China

Abstract

The paper seeks to examine the freedom of speech for the people of Republic of China. The paper seeks to do this, by examining the way the government of China has treated the media. This is because the paper believes that the media is central to the freedom of expression in any country. The paper also briefly examines how the Chinese government responds to those who activate for political freedom in China.

Introduction

The recent tussles between the government of China and the search engine Google show that China has gagged the media. This is because the Internet is the most modern means of communication (Cohn, 2007). It is also the media that can make most people express themselves freely. For freedom of expression to exist, there must be a free media .This is because people can only be heard through the media. Only last year, Liu, a renowned journalist was sent to prison. This was because of an email he had written. The charges against him were that he called for peaceful political demonstrations. Many ordinary Chinese have been jailed for candid political expression.

The People’s Republic of China continues to be a country that restricts the freedom of expression. This has seen many people leave the country. It has always managed to restrict freedom of expression by censoring the media. Since its formation in 1949, china has gagged the media. This has been due to the fact that the media is state run. Only a small number of media houses are not state run. They include CCTV, The People’s Daily and Xinhua. Where the media are not censored they encounter stiff government regulations. The media here is taken to mean television, Radio, newapapers, magazines and more recently the Internet. Some of the regulations that the media faces are as follows; for one, it is forbidden to report or question the legitimacy of the communist party. This, in Chinese media is a taboo subject that can get one jailed. The media cannot also report on the government of Tibet. Tibet is a secessionist state it has seceded from China although China maintains that it is part of China. The Chinese media cannot also report on the religious movement Falun Gong. The past few years have seen the loosening of some of the government rules that restrict the media. This has been through the commercialization of the media. Also, the emergency of independent media houses has seen to participate in the loosening of the media restrictions (Esarey, 2005).

Historical background

For purposes of integrity, let the paper state that the Chinese media reports on social issues. The freedom that has been curtailed is the political expression. Political expression constitutes freedom of expression. The curtailing of the freedom of expression began way back in 1949. This was the year that saw the birth of the People’s Republic of China. The government established regulations to make sure that the media does not report certain topics. These regulations have always been passed by the socialist party which is the governing party. The parliament of China has also been involved in the passing of laws that gag the media (Yuezhi, 1998).

In 1993, the Chinese government moved to censor the newest form of communication.   This was the Internet and the World Wide Web. Thus, the Internet has been censored in China since its inception. Since then there have been continuous fights between the Chinese government and management of search engines such as Google and Yahoo. The fight between the Chinese government and management of the mentioned search engines is about the freedom of expression. This is because the Chinese government has realized the potential of the Internet to be used as a means of communication. The government does not want the citizens to have any avenue where they can express themselves freely (Yuezhi, 1998).

Crack on Activists

The Chinese government has established a system that ensures that those who speak against the government are arrested.  These are the people who dare question the government on the taboo subject of freedom of expression. The other category includes those who fight for the rights of the citizens. These are the people who protest against police brutality. The police have been active in ensuring that those who speak against the government do not escape. They get arrested and charged on charges of defamation. Others go missing for months until they appear in court under false charges. Activists, when arrested, face long prison charges to discourage others from following in their suit. The government has also established a well trained police force to track down anyone who disobeys its regulations on censorship. Every kind of media is closely watched to ensure that they comply with the rules and regulations set in place to silence the citizenry. The one media that have been heavily censored in the recent past is the Internet.

Internet censorship

As the paper earlier documented, the censorship of the Internet began in 1993. This was when the central government passed three regulations that curtail the freedom of speech through the Internet. The first of these regulations state that individuals and private organizations are not allowed to have direct internet, international connection. This regulation was formally announced by the government in 1996, and it was updated in 1997(Collins, 2002).

This regulation requires all Internet connection to go through the official government machinery such as CERNET, ChinaNET and GBNET among other government regulatory agencies (Amnesty International, 2002).

The second regulation gave the ministry of public security authority to monitor the Internet provision in the country. The ministry was to inspect, supervise and guide the work of maintaining security in the country. In regard to the Internet, it was to prosecute criminal cases brought through the Internet. Reading the fine script, one can see that there is ambiguity in the powers of the ministry. This is to ensure that the ministry can get along with the suppression of the freedom of expression (Amnesty International, 2002).

The government in regard to Internet censorship has been enacting new regulations. People who break these regulations face jail terms or fines. In other instances, they face both. The charges that are brought against the people who violate these Internet regulations are various. For one, they are charged with performing acts that split the nation. Defamation is also another popular charge that is brought against these people. Leaking government secrets is another charge that those people who violate Internet censorship laws get. Sites that are found to violate the state laws get blocked. Several sites have been blocked like New York Times site was blocked in 2000 though it was later unblocked. The sites for the Washington Post, CBN and CBS have also been blocked, but they were unblocked in 2000 (Abbott, 2004).

According to the ministry of public security, the following is what makes a site be closed. According to the said ministry, if an Internet site is provoking division and promoting sentiment that is harmful to the national security, then it is to be closed. Injuring the image of state organizations is another crime that can get a site closed. Working to overthrow the Chinese government or the socialist set up is also termed as sedition and can get a site closed.  All this is propaganda aimed at stifling the freedom of expression. This is because it is the state ministry that determines what sedition is and what isn’t. The state ministry of security thus uses propaganda to censor freedom of speech in China. Because it cannot be overly brutal, it has come up with laws and regulations that push its’ agenda to harm the freedom of expression. Other media have also been stifled in the drive to control the freedom of speech in China. One such media is television (Abbott, 2004).

Television

The people’s republic of China (PRC) is technology savvy. It has invested widely in the television industry. 35% of the population has access to television. The television industry is heavily watched by the central government. TV stations are not independent in the country. That is they cannot air what they like. Like the Internet, they are censored by the government. This is because the government allows them to carry as much social material as they want. But when it comes to political communication they are curtailed. The television networks cannot report on police brutality. Also, they cannot report on unrests in the country (Benjamin, 2005).

The leading television network is the CCTV. It is a state owned corporation and employs about 10,000 people. It cannot air foreign programs. The contents of the TV broadcasts are examined by state officials on a regular basis. The TV station is closely watched by the propaganda department. It is under the scrutiny from the state department of the administration of Radio, Film and television. The chairman of the TV station is a deputy minister in the ministry of the administration of Radio, film and television. Thus, the TV industry is closely watched so that it cannot air anything that can advance the freedom of expression in the country. The other media like newspapers cannot also be used to advance the freedom of speech and expression (Benjamin, 2005).

Radio

Radio talk shows are slowly and systematically transforming the freedom of expression and speech in China. Most Radio stations have become liberal and are reporting on subjects that are considered taboo by the other media. Radio talk shows have become the ground on which millions of people talk back to the government. This is because the country has seen the proliferation of Radio stations in the last one decade. The Radio stations have become an avenue through which the people can at least have a measure of political freedom of expression. The other media are used by the state machinery to talk to the people. Radio provides a platform on which people talk back to the government. This does not mean that radio has a free hand to air what it wants. Freedom of expression continues to be suppressed in China on a day to day basis. China is one country that has consistently refused to grant a platform for the expression of fair speech (Guan, 1995).

Newspapers

Newspapers in China have not been able to cut through government restrictions. They are still under gags that make it impossible for them to report on anything that is politically sensitive. The dominant newspapers are socialist party papers that report more on social issues than on political matters. This is because to report on political issues is suicidal to a newspaper in China. Today there are 2200 daily papers in China. State agencies have authority to edit and censor news from foreign newspapers (Guan, 1995).

Western media

The western media are heavily censored in mainland China. This is in an attempt to stifle the freedom of speech. This is because the Chinese government understands the power of the media in opening up countries formerly locked in suppression of the freedom of speech. For example, the western media have been instrumental in opening up Burma to the international community. In China western journalists are restricted from entering the country. If they manage to enter the country, they meet severe restrictions. China is determined to continue the suppression of the freedom of speech .One of the most effective ways of doing this is the restriction of the western media in the country (Collins, 2002).

Conclusion

China has the longest record on the suppression of the freedom of speech. The paper has gone into details about how the government of China has stifled the media. This is because people cannot have freedom of speech when what they say cannot be reported in the media. The Chinese government has also censored the Internet. The Internet is the most efficient way of communicating globally. The Chinese government understands this, and that is why it cannot allow search engines like Google to operate freely in the country (Cohn, 2007).

The freedom of speech is essential to the development of any country. Most countries that used to curtail the freedom of speech have changed and are now allowing the said freedom. The media have been liberalized in most parts of the country. One of the most conservative countries has given in to a free and independent media that are central to freedom of speech. This is none other than Russia. Other countries have followed suit. Thus, there is no reason why the world’s largest nation can continue to stifle the freedom of expression (Yuezhi, 1998).

The governments of the world should rise and challenge China to give political space to its citizens. They should pressurize China to give freedom of speech to its citizens. This is because China is a signatory to international charter on freedom of speech. China also sits on the security council of the UN.Being a nation thus esteemed; it must also esteem its citizens by giving them the freedom of speech. Only in this way will it be able to prove to the world that it is worthy to sit on the security council of the UN.It will prove to all and sundry that it is serious when signing  international treaties.


References

Amnesty International (27 February 2002). People's Republic of China: State control of the Internet. New York: Amnesty International.

Abbott, P.  (2004). The Political Economy of the Internet in Asia and the Pacific Digital Divides, Economic Competitiveness, and Security Challenges. New York: Praeger.

Benjamin, L. (2005). "Watchdog or Demagogue? The Media in the Chinese Legal System." Columbia Law Review, 105(1).

Cohn, W. (2007). "Yahoo's China Defense." New Presence: The Prague Journal of European Affairs, 10(2).

Collins, D. (3 December 2002). China's Internet Censorship, CBS.

Esarey, A. (2005), "Cornering the Market: State Strategies for Controlling China's Commercial Media." Asian Perspective, 29(2).

Guan, S. (1995). Intercultural communication (in Chinese). Beijing: Beijing University Press.

Yuezhi, Z. (1998), Media, Market, and Democracy in China. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

 

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