There is something romantic about writing a blog. One shares his or her thoughts, stories, art and experiences with the world simply by clicking a mouse. Blogs have redefined what it is to be a writer or a journalist simply because “works” are published instantaneously. Whether or not the blog is actually read by anyone else but the blogger, the writer feels a sense of accomplishment and pride – he or she is, to a certain extent, an international superstar.
But what about in a place where such stardom can be seen as a threat? Enter: China.
To some, the expansion of the Internet in China was a surprise. How would a country that encourages censorship incorporate the World Wide Web – the epitome of freedom of speech – without chaos? Naturally, regulations were put in place (the second Great Wall of China), and many websites were blocked. These include Wikipedia, Facebook, YouTube, and most importantly for the purpose of this blog entry, Blogspot and Blogger.*
Despite the limitations, there are millions of bloggers in China (an estimated 30 million in 2005). Some are political; others are, well, unusual, but the majority of China-based bloggers use blogs to talk about themselves – the type of self-expression that would be seen as ludicrous 50 years ago. And no doubt, Chinese bloggers take their “right to blog” quite seriously.
In 2008, in order to outsmart Chinese government censors, bloggers began to use software that would allow them to write backwards. Others attempted to write in the ancient vertical form to confuse the technology. Today, bloggers are playing a game of cat and mouse with Internet police by creating multiple accounts under pseudonyms or by purchasing software that allows them to climb over the firewall. Another trick? Modifying the blog content to avoid being caught using one of the 1,083 characters that are filtered by security forces, which is not quite as simple as misspelling a word or adding an extra number or letter to the end. (When using characters, this blogger assumes that Chinese bloggers use either a similar character or an entirely different character with the same pronunciation as the intended word. Confusing as it may be, readers can still gather the sentiment behind the code.)
Of the 136 jailed journalists worldwide, 24 are imprisoned in China. Clearly, the government means business.
It makes you wonder… what drives Chinese bloggers to keep writing when the risks are so high? What are your thoughts?
*It should be mentioned that despite these regulations, certain people are allowed access to these websites, and many more have found ways around the “Wall.”