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They Just had not Noticed the Censorship

screen-capture.pngRebecca Mackinnor brought an interesting talk at the Berkman Center on China’s Internet culture. See the video here, and see the notes by Ethan Zuckerman here, and notes by David Weinberger here.

In her presentation, Rebecca figures out the Back-Dorm Boys (后舍男孩), Premier Wen Jiabao’s 2-plus hour net chatting, rivercrab(河蟹), “alpaca sheep(草泥马)”, blocked blogs and so on. These are very familar to Chinese netizens, at least those Chinese netizens who are working on the social development of the cyberspace and the cyberlaw. While what the most important observation of Rebecca, in my view, appears at the Q&A session. She said that for many people living in the mainland China, they  just not noticed the censorship.

Why? Becuse they just have many other concerns about their life, and

(1) for Chinese mainlander students, there are so much interesting stuffs IN the Chinese Cyberspace, including “alpaca sheep”;

(2) for foreigners (and actually some Chinese white collars either, I think) in mainland, they can get anything if they can read English, unless one’s job focuses on the human rights issues specifically.

Yes, they just had not noticed the censorship. This is a very curcial and of course accurate description. Some may worry about this, but I’d say the contrary hereby.

Yes, the so-called cyber authoritarian may not be comfortable when someone meets it. However in most circumstance, one doesn’t have to knock into the wall. I mean, as a matter of fact, Chinese netizens just don’t HAVE TO notice it because comparing with the off-line world, the cyberspace itself, even in a firewalled intranet, have had brought so much fun to the people. It is the distributed network itself that provides the possibility of freedom of express, the freedom of knowledge sharing, the freedom of fun, the freedom of “lower taste” (低俗) – if not the freedom of obscene, and the freedom of piracy. This nature of the network is important, not only for the Internet controllers working for the regime, but also for the fighters of cyber democracy.

If there must be some value in the networked society, the best choice may not be, at least not only be the norm of freedom, but rather the Value of Value-neutral – not only for the technology, but also for the attitude to the cyber-society.

Actually, based on the same concern, in the cnbloggercon 2008, I proposed that a Chinese blogger conference may invite more bloggers who might never care about the social development, such as homosexual bloggers, Shebloggers, gourmets, and so on. They are making their own fun and create their own special information into the cyberspace continuously. In some sense, it is these various bloggers making the Chinese cyberspace being pluralistic, and then survived itself from a world of monopolization – of the money, power, resouce, and the thought.

Rebecca quotes the proverbs in Tao-te Ching (道德经) at the beginning of her talk (see slides here): 

The Kingdom is a spirit-like thing, and cannot be got by active doing. He who would so win it destroys it; he who would hold it in his grasp loses it.

天下神器,不可为也,为者败之,执者失之。

I’d echo the following sentence at the end of the same paragraph:

Hence the sage puts away excessive effort, extravagance, and easy indulgence.

是以圣人去甚,去奢,去泰。

From FaTianXia to YaDian-从法天下到雅典学园

This is a bilingual post. The Chinese version is following the English.
这是一篇双语日志,中文部分在后面。

The logo of FaTianXia.
FaTianXia (Red characters beside the left stamp of Chinese traditional “Law”) means Law in the World, or Law for the World, or Study from the World, etc. The black inscription is specially presented by professor Jiang Ping, the most prominent Jurist in China. It says: Rule of the Law for Everwhere, and Thinking for China (my bad translation, while it has far more implications in Chinese).

 

FaTianXia[dot]com (closed now) impressed me when I saw it at the first sight by its significant technological progress comparing to other Chinese online legal communities. Its founder, KaKaYu had obviously tried his best to design a user-friendly and multifunctional Web 2.0 style interface. I blogged it with joy immediately.

Perhaps because of the “BBS culture” in Chinese Internet sphere, or because of the tendency of grand narrative in Chinese legal blogosphere (this tendency has been changing significantly in recent two years), the content in FaTianXia was not as diverse as its technological functions [1]. However, the defects cannot obscure the virtues. It is still one of the best non-profit grass-roots legal communities in China, at least in my view.

In fact, because I have my own independent BLawgDog.com, so I actually was not an active user of FaTianXia. I just established a mirro site of BLawgDog at FaTianXia, and occationally uploaded my posts together with their URLs at BLawgDog to lure the eyeballs to my own site. For a UGC (User-generated Content) site, criticising it but with almost zero contribution is more or less an unkind behavior. 

Last December, FaTianXia was closed.  I don’t know the exact reason, so I cannot say anything on it.  What I can say currently is: I find a new Web 2.0 style Chinese legal site: YaDian (means Athens Academe in English). It might be the best non-profit grass-roots online legal communities in China, at least in my view.


  从见到法天下的第一天起,我就被它深深吸引。相比其它中文法律社区网站,它在技术理念上大大进步。其主办者卡卡鱼从一开始就尽力将其打造成为一个界面友好、功能丰富的Web2.0网站。为此我还兴奋地专门写过一篇日志

  也许是因为中文网络环境中的“BBS文化”,也可能是因为中文法律博客圈的宏大叙事倾向(近两年有非常大的改观),法天下中的内容还是比较平面化和单一化。但瑕不掩瑜,在我看来,它仍然是中国最好的非营利性草根法律社区之一。

  事实上,由于有法豆主站,我并不是法天下的活跃用户,只是在上面建了个法豆的镜像站,偶尔地将法豆上的内容及链接复制过去,小心眼里还有勾引流量的意思。对一个用户创造内容(UGC)的网站,自己没多大贡献还说它内容不够多元,多少有些不厚道。

  上个月,法天下突然关闭了。我不知道具体的原因,所以也不可能对此发表什么意见。我只是想说:有一个新的网站叫“雅典学园”,它非常地2.0,可能是中国最好的非营利性草根法律社区之一。

Why Choose Blogspot Hosting My English Blog?

Everyone except some Chinese Netizens in this planet has known for a long time: blogspot is blocked by China, then why do I choose it hosting my English blog?

Choosing Blogspot, I may get very limited visitors from mainland China. Although it is an English blog, I believe most of entries here are more attractive to those people in China – either speaking Chinese or English – than in anywhere of the world.

Choosing Blogspot, I may encounter difficulties when I tried to post entries or manage my blog. Most of my business stays in China until now, which means most of my life may be spent in China. I may not so easy to access my own site when I am back to my hometown.

Am I such a freshman who just begin blogging? No. My homepage has been launched to the Internet near 10 years, and I have been involved in the study of Internet Law (Cyber Law) over 5 years. I’ve read perhaps every provision of Chinese Internet regulation, and I have observed most of important events in the history of the Internet governance by Chinese Government.

Am I such a young radical activist? No. From my knowledge, no one will really win in a political debate. If there must be a winner, he / she must be the stronger. And furthermore, I don’t, and I am not capable to, care about the so-called democracy and other political issues. I just hope to feed myself with my professional knowledge.

Am I intended to publish the rubbish and spamming the Internet? No. I am a lawyer. A lawyer will not be so stupid to leave evidence even when he was compelled to do something perhaps illegal. While my blog is of a purely legal one, at least according to the existing Chinese law. No unsolicited message, no pornography, no drug abuse, no Child sex, no privacy violation, no piracy, no violence, no terrorism, and of course, no threaten to the national / international security. Plus, I am planning to add “no smoking” and “no snore”. My blog focus on academic and professional topics, even my personal hobbies are banned by myself. So if a government bans this site because of its content, the reason should only be: there are some contents here.

Then why I choose Blogspot, a blocked hoster?

Because my responsibility to the Chinese people? No. I wish I were so patriotic, but I always disappoint myself by falling into the daily work. I have to confess that each time when I saw my friends are using those outdated web services, I feel sorry. But I don’t and cannot be their father. When people ask me questions about the new applications in the Internet, my answer are normally simple and selfish: search and try them by yourself.

Well, enough, there may be other mistaken answers. I’m tired to explain more. Now let me release the correct simple answer:

Because I have registered a Google account, and its service is good enough for me.

The Internet is the tool of my work and the toy of my relaxation. I don’t hope to be the slave of my tool and toy. If a tool is good enough, why do I choose another? My computer was bought 6 years ago. It still can run software what I need, so I don’t buy a new one. My first website was based on a simple template of FrontPage (an old Microsoft software) and published in 1998. It is replaced till 2003, because it cannot satisfy my needs of upload new entries every day. My Chinese blog was set up in 2005, it runs well but the technical support is poor, so I may change to another some day (God knows when it will be).

Similarly, Google’s services are not bad, I enjoy using Gmail, Google reader and other applications with a sole account. And most importantly, its services are updating. I don’t want switch to another service provider. I need a pure English blog service which is stable and is compatible to my Chinese site. Blogspot is enough.

You may say a blocked Google is nothing. But how can you predict which is the next one? The trend is: when a new website is good enough to attract Chinese visitors, it is facing the fate of blocking. The cases of Flickr and Feedburner, the unblock of Technorati has proved that the blocking is extremely arbitrary. I will not discuss the legitimacy of the blocking in this essay. And I may never discuss this topic in the future since I don’t used to discussing a topic on which the academic conclusion is useless to the legal practice. What I am talking about is a common sense:

If each line is possible to be cut off, why do I waste time to find and study a line that I haven’t touched before?

Actually, in my BlawgDog.com, an English channel (so just click here if you are in mainland China) has been set up from the very beginning. Because the blog system I used is based on Chinese, the pages in this English channel still includes many Chinese buttons. So what I need is just a blog service that may be used to establish a pure English branch to perfect my BLawgDog.com, Blogspot is enough.

Again, Google has provided what I want, and what I don’t want was not conducted by Google itself. If I choose other sites, I am doing a censorship too, and this self-censorship can’t help me since it can’t prevent my hoster being blocked tomorrow morning.