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China: blogs advancing freedom of speech

Editors Weblog | February 21 2006

Bill Gates could be right. In a recent interview about his company's decision to adhere to the strict rules of the People's Party, the chief of Microsoft attested that the mere presence of the Internet in China would help to further freedom of speech. Reuters has published story that suggests Gates might not just be blowing hot air to protect his business practices.

Reuters writes of Li Xinde, an Internet investigative reporter for China Public Opinion Surveillance Net, a publication dedicated to "exposing corrupt officials and injustice." Mr. Li then disperses his stories over some of the 49 blogs he maintains.

"They shut down one, so I move to another," said Mr. Li. "It's what Chairman Mao called sparrow tactics. You stay small and independent, you move around a lot, and you choose when to strike and when to run."

Mr. Li has built a reputation among Chinese citizens concerned about party corruption, receives leads from others via the Internet and has exposed several incidents of severe corruption.

But as his reputation grows, it becomes harder for him to publish. His web site was closed for a few months by the government and his blogs are frequently shut down by censors. Still, Mr. Li boasts about the power the Internet has provided him:

"I can still spread news across the whole country in just 10 minutes, while the propaganda officials are still wondering what to do."

Commenting on the general grip of the Communist Party over the Chinese population, Li said, "Our party always said revolution depended on the gun and the pen - the military and propaganda. The gun is still firmly in the party's hands, but the pen has loosened."

Source: Reuters

ps. A Washington Post article gives a different idea of the Chinese government's reaction to the Internet, showing that it has recently shut down the "collective intelligence" encyclopedia, Wikipedia for the second time. And according to some of the original Chinese wikimedians, this time it could be for good.

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