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Censorship Government The Media Politics

China Unblocks the BBC (In English) 158

Posted by kdawson
from the firewall-what-firewall-i-don't-see-any-firewall dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with news that China has unblocked the BBC Web site — the English-language version at any rate. No announcement was made, because China has never acknowledged blocking the BBC for the last decade. The Chinese-language version of the site has been blocked since its inception in 1999. The article speculates that the easing of censorship may be tied to the upcoming Olympic Games.
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China Unblocks the BBC (In English)

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  • by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @04:11PM (#22862932)
    I'd imagine the reporters from other countries will not be censored, through the great firewall or otherwise. If so, they must have a devil of a time separating the chinese from the reporters. Anyone heard anything on this?
    • by KevMar (471257) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @04:29PM (#22863142) Homepage Journal
      This will be interesting.

      People from all over the world will be visiting and all kinds of reporters will be onsite. How many reports do you think we will see that tell us China blocks part of the internet. Telling us stuff we already told them but they refused to listen.

      This will be a big black eye for China because the whole world will be faced with the details and feel the impact.

      This could get interesting.

      I saw one person mention tor as a work around. I think using a VPN could also work for them.
      • by hackingbear (988354) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @04:57PM (#22863446)

        As I lived in China for 3 years, you can surf most English foreign media websites like CNN, New York Times, etc., most of the times. They don't really care. Because if you are so fluent in English, you already know all about human rights and you are likely a member of the better-off class. In China, like everywhere else, the people that want to and will revolve against the government are the poor people -- never the middle class or rich people. Remember who in the U.S. joint the L.A. riots in the 1990's?

        In China, they are most interested in blocking oversea/HK/Taiwan Chinese sites. Like sina.com is a Chinese company operating two sites -- one for domestic and others for oversea with contents not allowed in China.

        • by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @05:19PM (#22863658)
          Actually the middle class has been the core of most revolutions in the last two centuries. You need educated people to lead a revolution.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by hackingbear (988354)
            Yeah... it is like most U.S. presidential candidates of the Democrat party are millionaires. Even bin laden is a millionaire. The mass of the revolution are the poor people.
            • I am not sure but I suspect those cases are exceptions (I wouldn't really count presidents as leaders of a revolution) but it could be a new phenomena for the 21th century. However up to now the upper class is usually the one that has the interest in keeping the status quo - but the middle class has both the talent and the frustration from not having the same opportunities as the upper class to start a revolution. As one of the responders mentioned you do need the masses to follow the leader - but the masse
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by LandDolphin (1202876)
            You are right when you say: You need educated people to lead a revolution.

            However, while you need educated people to lead, you usually need uneducated people to follow. And there are always more followers then leaders, or at least there should be!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Evers (961334)
        How much do you want to bet that the Olympic village and international hotels will have open unrestricted access for all visitors... I don't think the reporters will face nearly as much censorship as you seem to think.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Auraiken (862386)
          Bet you that china is also clearing out people from the cities that the games are being hosted in as well. Forcing them to move away so that the only people that reporters will have access to are high paid officials, loyals, or paid pretenders. Mod this +1 conspiracy or sadtruth hum.
          • They are already getting rid of anyone who could make the prosperity of china look bad - I'm sure that they will impose restrictions on who foreign reporters can talk to without losing some kind of privilege, on top of which anyone talking to wester reporters would have to be suicidal to say anything critical of the regime.
          • by mathnerd314 (1212880) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @05:34PM (#22863816)

            Bet you that china is also clearing out people from the cities that the games are being hosted in as well. Forcing them to move away so that the only people that reporters will have access to are high paid officials, loyals, or paid pretenders.
            You may laugh, but Beijing is planning to kick out a bunch of migrant workers during the Olympics (link [shanghaiist.com]) to make room for everyone else.
            • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

              by Anonymous Coward
              apparently, China has mod points
            • That's fairly normal, although the Chinese scale may be unusual. An Olympics is a popular time to "clean up" a city, partly to make it more presentable to the visitors, and partly to make housing available for them. It's after the Olympics when the property taxes are still ridiculously high and the local working class don't want to move back that you have an influx of migrant workers and overcrowded families moving into the now abandoned buildings and turning back into slums very, very quickly, especially b
        • We already know that for the games, the Great Firewall will be disabled at all of the access points that foreigners are likely to use (luxury hotels, the Olympic, village, etc.) James Fallows wrote an excellent article on the subject in last month's Atlantic Monthly: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200803/chinese-firewall [theatlantic.com].

          As Fallow's notes, the Great Firewall isn't exactly difficult to bypass anyway, for those people who are so inclined. What's truly pernicious about it is its panopticon effect: the Great F

        • by oliderid (710055)
          How much do you want to bet that the Olympic village and international hotels will have open unrestricted access for all visitors

          That's already the case IMHO...At least the last time I was in Shanghai (2005) I don't remember having anykind of problem to surf on my favorite web sites (news.bbc.co.uk, nytimes.com, slashdot.org, lemonde.fr, lefigaro.fr to name a few). I heard (two days ago: I watched a very nice interview on BBC World of a leading chinese diplomat) that they've got two policies, one for the pr
      • by isomeme (177414) <cdberry@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @05:46PM (#22863908) Homepage Journal
        I very much doubt we'll see any significant unfavorable coverage from the major corporate news media. All the big corporations are desperate to get or keep access to Chinese markets -- it's hard to ignore a billion potential customers. And they know very well that the Chinese government will remember who said bad things about them when it's time to negotiate licenses and deals.
      • Don't get excited... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Nocturrne (912399)
        I am an American, living in China. While it is nice to see the BBC unblocked, I know that I will still have to use ssh to be sure I am seeing the real, unfiltered, content. Thanks to the nice Cisco (American) technology we developed for them, they are able to selectively block and redirect individual articles.
    • They should censor foreign athletes too, not just the journalists, to be sure to pocket plenty of gold medails. "You're not allowed to participate, you look like a dissident! Please take example from our hormone-grown and metabolically-challenged athletes who look just so Mao-worthy." I wonder how long before Slashdot is blocked, or is it already?
    • by SeaFox (739806)

      I'd imagine the reporters from other countries will not be censored, through the great firewall or otherwise.

      I wonder what they'd do with a foreign reporter who was writing articles in Chinese.
  • Poor them (Score:1, Troll)

    by McGiraf (196030)
    poor them, the level of protection from harmful content by their govenement is getting lower and lower.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sakdoctor (1087155)
      Upon first witnessing the glory and splendour of unfiltered media, they casually, whimsically, decided to destroy it, remarking, "It'll have to go".
  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @04:19PM (#22863002) Homepage
    On my first trip to China several years ago, the expats I met complained bitterly about the firewall. When I was there last summer, however, it seems that the use of Tor has widely spread in the expat community and now anyone wishing to read English-language media has no problem accessing it.
    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @04:41PM (#22863260) Journal
      That's progress, but not of the sort that the international community is trying to foster.

      Keep in mind that part of the reason the International Olympic Committee gave China the games was to create international pressure for change... and not of the TOR variety.

      I find it ironic that, despite publicly stating they wanted to create pressure, now the IOC is condemning calls to boycott the Beijing Olympics, amongst other things.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by MightyMartian (840721)
        Look, the IOC awards cities the right to host the Olympics based upon kick-backs, bribes and the amount of money that the IOC can make out of marketing deals. Any notion that Beijing was awarded the Olympics as a means of forcing China's hands on human rights is laughably inane. Even if it were true, it would indicate such extreme naivete and stupidity on the part of the IOC as to make a pretty good argument for having the entire lot of meaningless hangers-on and power-hungry bureaucrats that make it up d
        • by Mex (191941)
          "Quite frankly, that any country spends a nickel sending a pack of drug-abusing ninnies off to compete against other countries' drug-abusing ninnies is the shame in and of itself."

          I am a close relative of a certain competitor in one of the Olympic sports (not the popular ones, but certainly a difficult art) and I can assure you and vouch that he does not and has never taken drugs of any sort, unless creatine counts.

          You come off as very ignorant, insulting, and petty, sir.
          • by a whoabot (706122)
            I would say creatine counts.
          • Yes yes, no one is ever taking performance enhancing drugs, until they're found taking performance enhancing drugs.

            The whole thing is a vast waste of money, a nationalistic freak show, and just about the most pointless international exercise out there.
            • by Mex (191941)
              Look, in THIS particular case I can vouch for the fact, because I fucking live and train with this person.

              Just because a percentage of athletes do it doesn't mean everyone does.

              It's just as bad as "all slashdotters live in their basement" and other insults of the geek persuasion.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ScrewMaster (602015)
        Keep in mind that part of the reason the International Olympic Committee gave China the games was to create international pressure for change... and not of the TOR variety.

        That's wrongheaded, anyway. You don't give a bully what he wants and then tell him it's because you want him to stop being a bully. No, you tell him up front he won't get what he wants until he stops being a bully, and that only as long as he continues to play nice.

        This had nothing to do with trying to encourage change in China's go
        • by TubeSteak (669689)

          That's wrongheaded, anyway. You don't give a bully what he wants and then tell him it's because you want him to stop being a bully. No, you tell him up front he won't get what he wants until he stops being a bully, and that only as long as he continues to play nice.

          That's one school of thought and we can see how well it's worked with countries like Cuba, Iran, N. Korea, etc.

          Another school of thought suggests that engaging the bully will give you better results in the long term. China is a bully, but the USA engaged them as economic partners and things have changed, albeit very slowly.

          • China is a bully, but the USA engaged them as economic partners and things have changed, albeit very slowly.

            Not at all. Let me rephrase your comment so that it is more closely aligned with reality:

            China is a bully, and the USA foolishly engaged them as economic partners and now things have not only gone from bad to worse, but have done so with blinding speed. And China's government has not, by all accounts, been changed even a smidgen for the better.
          • That's one school of thought and we can see how well it's worked with countries like Cuba, Iran, N. Korea, etc.

            It also the school of thought that came from the Munich Agreement and the appeasement of Nazi Germany. Giving into aggressive countries will just continue to show them they can do what they want. Giving Beijing the Olympics was a bad choice as we can see from the recent situation in Tibet. While the Olympics are more about money than anything else they also mean more that simple profit and the Olympic committee may have forgotten that.

            Things have worked out in Cuba and NK and Iran to lesser extents.

  • Thank God. China will finally have easy access to Dr. Who.
    • by Applekid (993327) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @04:52PM (#22863392)
      Only the relatively well off among the Chinese are educated enough to be literate in English. You know: heads of state-owned companies, those in high levels of government, espionage, and maybe some repatriotized persons. In any case, relatively few people. Of those, they are all in comfortable surroundings made possible by the state. If they start learning about "democracy" and "freedom" they realize that, all in all, they aren't doing too bad themselves. And if those learnings lead to funny ideas about bringing them to within China, the state could easily replace them and any one of their peers would jump at the new opportunity.

      The majority of Chinese, the only ones with a smidgen of possibility of success to revolt and start a revolution due to their sheer numbers, are the ones the Chinese establishment wants to keep dumb and oblivious. The ones with perhaps most to gain from a new democratic China.

      So much for the classless society communism promises.
      • mod parent up (Score:1, Insightful)

        i couldn't have said it better myself
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @05:40PM (#22863874)

        So much for the classless society communism promises.

        You're incredibly naive. Do you actually believe that China is a communist state? If yes, I might have a bridge to sell you.

        Seriously, the fact that someone claims they're something doesn't make it true. Would you point at North Korea and say "democracy doesn't work" because they call themselves a "democratic republic"? Of course not.

        That's not to say that communism does or can work - it doesn't, and it can't. But no matter what, communism hasn't got the slightest thing to do with modern China.

      • by hackingbear (988354) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @05:48PM (#22863936)

        I will suggest you to do two things: (1) get a travel visa to China, go to a large city like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and visit some English corners (if you don't know where to find one, try google [google.com]; (2) start learning written Chinese and visit the discussion forums of Chinese news website like sina.com [sina.com.cn] for sometimes, especially for discussions about corruption cases, housing prices, or even news when the stock market heads down.

        (1) will show you who and how many people are fluent in English; (2) will show you if people there know about "democracy", "freedom" and "equality" and if people can criticize the government or not. don't take my words here. go try the above two things. Of course, you can also choose just to listen the mainstream opinions you have heard from CNN and Slashdot -- that's your right as well.

        • Oh good Lord - save me from the wisdom of English teachers! Going to English corners! Jesus on a pogo stick son...English corners are only for bookworm students and other nerds. You only meet a very small stratum of society there. Especially in the large cities...jeez get into the real China, man.
      • by sjwest (948274)

        May i suggest a book The writing on the wall: China and the west in the 21st century, by Will Hutton

      • by Knuckles (8964)
        Only the relatively well off among the Chinese are educated enough to be literate in English. You know: heads of state-owned companies, those in high levels of government, espionage, and maybe some repatriotized persons

        I give you that "only the relatively well-off" speak English, but there are many more than just the few groups of people on your list. I work for a multinational company with offices in several Chinese cities, and of course most employees from secretaries upwards speak and read English.
  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @04:41PM (#22863264) Journal
    I love the tag at the bottom of the article:

    Are you in China? What is your reaction to this story? Is this your first time reading the BBC News website?

    Followed by a block to enter your name, address and phone number. Yea right, that's a good idea, log on with your real info and complain about how your government censors you....and leave your contact info.
  • by Bobb Sledd (307434) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @04:48PM (#22863338) Homepage
    I am posting my comment from China right now, and I can tell you that [xxxxx] [xx] [xx] [xxxx] and [xxxxxxx] [xx] [xxxx] BBC [xx] [xxxx] so that [xx] [xxx] [xxxx] [xx] [xx] [xxxxx] Chinese government. What I can't figure out is, why is this the only article on Slashdot today? Slow news day? Hmm.
  • by coaxial (28297) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @04:48PM (#22863348) Homepage
    The conventional wisdom [theatlantic.com] is that in the lead up to, and during, the olympics that Great Firewall is going to be deactivated for those with IP addresses originating in parts of Beijing where foreigners are expected to be. The idea is that foreigners will come to China, not see anything a miss and then go back to their home countries and spread the false impression.

    It's a page right out Chairman Mao's playbook. When Nixon went China, the handlers routinely gave people on the street transistor radios [time.com] to listen to. That way Nixon and Kissenger would say, "Wow. What a nice scene. China truly is wonderful place." Then as soon as these people were out of sight of dignitaries, goons (I'm sorry, "the advance team") would collect the radios for redistribution to other Potemkin Villages.

    As David Byrne said, "Same as it ever was."

    I'm going to be in Beijing next month in a hotel down by the Bird's Nest. I'm going to have to check out the Great Firewall.
    • by MLCT (1148749) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @05:25PM (#22863720)
      It won't work though. I have long predicted that this is going to become the protest Olympics. Not like the 1980 boycott nonsense - indeed the exact opposite, everyone goes, and everyone goes (or attempts to) where they like. I would be amazed if all of the major human rights organisations have not very well thought out plans to make public protests at the games. If they protests, it is reported - if they get caught and jailed it is reported (coupled with the "outrage, they kept me in a 3x3 cell" headlines).
      If the journo's attempt to go outside the "gated world" you foresee then they will either, a: find the real story and report it (scoop!), or b: have some "obey all orders" state authority tell them they are barred - the journo's will report that (scoop!) and China will still look bad.

      This Olympics were only ever going to be a success for China if the media played along with their "lets all play happy families, look everything is nice" game - I was pleased to see the widespread reporting of the Tibet protesters interrupting the torch lighting in Greece (coincidentally I can see the 5 rings depicted as handcuffs becoming a oft repeated protest symbol for this games) - that is indicative that the media aren't going to play the brush it under the carpet game.

      I partly feel sorry for the honest Chinese people who want to be proud of their country. And in truth the oppression and censorship isn't really 100 miles away from some practices in the western world (camp X ray, extraordinary rendition being two examples where the moral code of conduct has just been chucked in the fire). But at the same time the Chinese government is just far too easy a target - the appallingly hilarious cold war communist part ways that they attempt to deny the plain truth ("the sky is blue" - reply "no it isn't" end of discussion) is just far too easy to make a mockery out of.

      Let the games commence.
      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @05:34PM (#22863814) Journal

        I partly feel sorry for the honest Chinese people who want to be proud of their country. And in truth the oppression and censorship isn't really 100 miles away from some practices in the western world (camp X ray, extraordinary rendition being two examples where the moral code of conduct has just been chucked in the fire). But at the same time the Chinese government is just far too easy a target - the appallingly hilarious cold war communist part ways that they attempt to deny the plain truth ("the sky is blue" - reply "no it isn't" end of discussion) is just far too easy to make a mockery out of.


        Yes, the US has done some nasty things, but come on, to compare it in any way to the vast machinery of propaganda that PRC uses to control the Chinese people with the idiocies and sins of your average US Administration is pathetic. I didn't notice anybody getting trundled off to jail for reporting on the various abuses. The Administration makes its loud noises, but the NY Times is still there, and still critical of the government.

        Governments, by their very nature, will abuse the rights of people under their control (citizens and non-citizens alike). The key here is not that any country have some sort of perfect government, but that the key checks of a free press and the freedom to voice one's opinion are sacrosanct.
        • by MLCT (1148749)
          I am not commenting on any symmetry of press freedom - that is very obviously different. What I was commenting on were other forms of moral and civil liberties. Hundreds dead in the Tibetan protests over the last few weeks is obviously something that is far away from a western mirror image, but there are plenty of activities (particularly the Bush administrations') that if they were going on in China there would be a western "outcry" and moralising about it - yet it goes on here and seems to be accepted.
          • by rahvin112 (446269)
            Snooping is one thing, using that snooping in a court is another thing. Remember, even though Bush is breaking the law and the telecommunications companies were complicit in it, the simple fact is that none of the information obtained can be used to put a single US citizen in jail. Part of the ongoing fight at Gitmo is to make sure that none of the information gained can be used in any court anywhere including those where they try to take away constitutional rights from non-citizens.

            It's one thing to allow
            • by MLCT (1148749)

              Sure our governments listens, but without a court order and some reasonable suspicion to get the warrant none of listening can amount of much of anything,

              Come on, that is just a half twist on the "if you are doing nothing wrong then it doesn't matter that we are intercepting your mail" age old argument that is a total fallacy in any argument about privacy. There is *no* moral authority coming from the US on this unless there is a reasonable suspicion to enable listening in the first place - otherwise you are just in a 1984 "as long as you abide by the law you have nothing to worry about" trap.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MrPloppy (1117689)
          Yes Western countries dont need to have vast machinery to control the media and citizens because the media organisations are quite happy to do it themselves. Yes "the key checks of a free press and the freedom to voice one's opinion are sacrosanct." but it makes no difference because dissenting voices are drowned out by the establishment. For example in the UK the coverage of Palestine and Israel is unfairly biased towards Israel. http://www.gla.ac.uk/centres/mediagroup/bnfi_reviews.htm [gla.ac.uk] Its not just on this
          • by drsquare (530038)

            For example in the UK the coverage of Palestine and Israel is unfairly biased towards Israel.
            Not in the Guardian or on the BBC it isn't.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by FreeGamer (1001924)

          Yes, the US has done some nasty things, but come on, to compare it in any way to the vast machinery of propaganda that PRC uses to control the Chinese people with the idiocies and sins of your average US Administration is pathetic.

          You're right. It's far harsher to hold the Chinese people to account for the actions of their government. The American people, on the other hand, voted in Bush not once but twice and the country has committed some horrendous acts under his 'control'. The American people are dir

          • Well, I'm not an American, so I feel quite free in condemning the cowardly butchers in Beijing for their seizure and attempts to destroy Tibetan culture. And anyone who tries to compare even the worst American administration to the evils of the PRC (how many millions of people are the Communist Party directly responsible for now) then I pity them for the brain tumor that they most certainly must have that has destroyed their sense of proportion.

            China should get out of Tibet, or every freedom-loving country
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by samsamsamj (1086689)

        I partly feel sorry for the honest Chinese people who want to be proud of their country. And in truth the oppression and censorship isn't really 100 miles away from some practices in the western world (camp X ray, extraordinary rendition being two examples where the moral code of conduct has just been chucked in the fire). But at the same time the Chinese government is just far too easy a target - the appallingly hilarious cold war communist part ways that they attempt to deny the plain truth ("the sky is b

    • If you're going to be in China, try to hop over to Xian- in my opinion, the Terracotta Warriors blow away the Great Wall. Simply because all the "touristy" sections of the great wall seem rather fake to me after being rebuilt. I've been to the Badaling and Mutianyu sections near Beijing, and they are alright, though Mutianyu is marginally better in my opinion. Other sections seem less traveled, which might make for a more "authentic" experience. The more remote the better.

      Also, don't forget to bargain at
      • by coaxial (28297)
        Thanks for the advice! I'd like to avoid the touristy parts if I can, but at the same time there are certain things such as Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City that you just have to see since they are unique in the world.

        I should definitely try to schedule some time to go to Xian. I can always take a train I guess. A friend of mine in Beijing suggested the the Hou Hai and Xiang Shan neighborhoods in Beijing places to see. Any other advice?
        • by fliptout (9217)
          I lived a within walking distance of Hou Hai lake, and I loved it. It is mostly little chill bars, which is my scene. If you like more bumpin places with lots of girls, go to Gongti (gong ren ti yu chang- people's stadium) or San Li Tun (San Li Tur in Beijing speak).

          One thing I never saw but wanted to was the Underground City. Looks like it is in the easter part of central Beijing. Xiang Shan is fine, if you like hiking. Personally it was ho-hum for me, but chinese love walking up mountains. Summer Palac
      • True story.

        One time at the great wall, I was coming down and walking through the tourist trap. Saw a chairman mao watch [google.com] where mao would wave to you. Thought it was cute.

        The thing with tourist traps is they all sell the same stuff. Don't like one vendor, move on to another! I asked the first vendor how much it was, she says like 40 RMB. I say 25. She gets upset and tells me I'm unreasonable. I move on.
        I get to the bottom of the hill and ask the vendor how much. he says 80. How about 25? He proceed
  • Why is it we are appalled at the Chinese Government's heavy handed censorship yet every capitalist business participates in a similar use of an asymmetry of information? You don't know what I do therefore you pay me to for access/product/whatever and I don't know what you know so the same applies in reverse!

    Yes, I prefer that I have as free access to as much information as possible.
    • by Angostura (703910)
      Because when you are working for a capitalist business you are being paid for your time and in return the capitalist business expects you to carry out assigned tasks rather than browsing Facebook?
    • by Da Fokka (94074)
      Because you can choose the businesses you are dealing with to a large extent, while you can't choose another government. Theoretically, in a liberal democracy you have some influence over your government but this is not true in China. And even in the west, there often is very little to choose. That's why the guys who wrote the US constitution were pretty smart when they wrote down a list of subjects the government should not govern.
  • by Is0m0rph (819726) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @04:53PM (#22863404)
    A win for China, they finally get to watch Mr Bean!
  • ironic... (Score:3, Funny)

    by alewar (784204) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @05:05PM (#22863524)
    I tried to watch a couple of shows online from the BBC website but I wasn't allow because I don't live in the UK, I was blocked by the BBC itself.
  • by br00tus (528477) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @05:23PM (#22863700)
    ...Sinn Fein from talking for years, even though Sinn Fein MPs were being elected to the British Parliament. When Gerry Adams appeared on television, an actor would have to read his lines. Even documentaries covering events in Ireland from decades ago ran into problems. And as this pertains to the BBC, we we won't even get into the British government banning books like Spycatcher and so forth.

    Yaa, it's always the slant-eyed reds who won't bow down to the US who are the censoring types who kdawson has to post "news" articles about again and again and again. Never mind that people in the US who sell PAID-FOR satellite access to Al Manar [nytimes.com] are thrown into prison to rot. Never mind that the Great Firewall of China was mostly built not in China but by the largest companies dotting the San Francisco Bay area. As Easter just ended, a quote from old JC - look not for the speck in your neighbor's eye when you have a log in your own.

    • by MLCT (1148749) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @05:30PM (#22863762)
      Stop talking bollocks. The Thatcher government banned Mr Adams from all broadcast media in the UK, the BBC (along with ITN and all the other UK broadcasters) had no choice but to do it or they would be prosecuted - it has bugger all to do with the BBC themselves.
    • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @05:37PM (#22863838)
      The BBC also refused to show the Star Trek Next Gen episode "The High Ground" because Mr Data mentioned that terrorism sometimes works and that Northern Ireland became independent. Also a while back the BBC had an open discussion on Google's collaboration with censorship in China. A few people pointed out that the BBC also engages in censorship and the BBC deleted their comments. In the end they had to give up as a torrent of people started to complain. If you look at the BBC's "Have Your Say" today, you will see that all discussions are totally locked down and pre-moderated despite the BBC's initial promise of an open discussion system.

      The more general issue though is that the BBC (and other outlets) engage in widespread self-censorship. Just look at the way the BBC handles the official statements of different governments. When it comes to Russia the BBC treat them with suspicion and try to second guess them and look at all the possible ulterior motives. When it comes to the US or UK, there is no such analysis and the arguments become confined within the narrow parameters laid out by those governments. So BBC discussion of Iraq becomes an analysis of how our good intentions have gone wrong, or why we messed up with the intelligence, rather than trying to look at any possible ulterior motives etc.
      • by owlnation (858981)
        Mod parent Insightful.

        Totally correct. People forget that the BBC is, and always has been, a propaganda tool for the UK Government -- probably an espionage tool too.

        My first thought on seeing this article was that the most likely reason was a deal done by the BBC / UK Government and China -- i.e. not that China was becoming more liberal, but that the BBC had agreed on certain censorships.
        • People forget that the BBC is, and always has been, a propaganda tool for the UK Government

          Not always a terribly effective one, though. The phrases 'Did you threaten to overrule him' and 'Peter Mandelson is certainly gay' spring to mind.

  • cat and mouse. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @05:25PM (#22863722)
    Whenever I visited China, I always had a feeling of playing cat and mouse with the unseen and much hypothesised great firewall. BBC back then? no chance. but you could hunt around and use other UK based new sites - daily main, guardian, thesun (if desperate), the times. Sometimes they would grind to a halt and I imagined my unseen monitor in the great firewall office checking what I was doing - then, as if he/she decided I was not a subversive threat, it would spring back into life. Other times I would VPN or proxy and find any site I wanted - but at a pitifully slow rate as if everything I did was intercepted and checked by my unseen intermediary. Other fun things that had odd effects on the speed on which pages would load would be to proxy them through the dialectizer - I always imagined one severly culterally puzzled state firewall operator calling his boss. The 'net access was always different depending on where I hooked up - im the 5* hotel in shezhen was always the fastest, in the office soso, in a street cafe you could forget it.

    My conclusion was that the firewall was very very definately real, and the moment it found a foreign news story, the wrong keyword then suddenly wierd timelags and delays in page lookups would occur as my unseen companion blocked or cleared at whim. I also could of sworn that the system could tell the difference between the net being accessed from a posh hotel occupied by Western Engineers and a street cafe.
  • Tibet a factor (Score:5, Informative)

    by trainman (6872) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @05:32PM (#22863792) Homepage
    The current Tibet situation is probably also a factor in the dropping of the BBC block. "What?!?!," you're probably saying, "But China likes to hide that kind of stuff from their citizens, they don't like news getting out about unrest." Ahh, but this is a special situation.

    When it comes to Tibet, the more Western media that gets in the better for the Chinese government. There is an intense vein of nationalism in China when it comes to Tibet. With outpourings of rage about "biased" western media, distorted facts, and CIA plots to break up China. The more Tibet-sympathetic reports that come from the West and leak in the China, the stronger this nationalism seems to get, and the more the people, even the poor, rally around their government.

    My other half is a Chinese national, we've had some very intense conversations lately, and she's sent me links to views coming out of China about the Tibet situation. Ordinary Chinese see this as a direct attack on their sovereignty.

    Many Chinese are learning English, especially the under 20 crowd. In the major eastern cities it's now required for all students in elementary school. If the government can channel their unrest against the Imperial West who's trying to break up their country, it takes the heat off the government. The Chinese government has long used nationalism, an us vs. them mentality, to deflect attention from itself domestically.

    Of course they certainly wouldn't be the only country doing this, it's a long standing tradition for any unpopular regime. If you can draw this line between you and another group, and get your people to rally around you on some point, you can easily manipulate and pacify a population.
    • When it comes to Tibet, the more Western media that gets in the better for the Chinese government. There is an intense vein of nationalism in China when it comes to Tibet. With outpourings of rage about "biased" western media, distorted facts, and CIA plots to break up China. The more Tibet-sympathetic reports that come from the West and leak in the China, the stronger this nationalism seems to get, and the more the people, even the poor, rally around their government.

      My other half is a Chinese national, we

      • Re:Tibet a factor (Score:4, Interesting)

        by trainman (6872) on Tuesday March 25, 2008 @06:19PM (#22864186) Homepage

        The pretext used for the invasion of Tibet was pretty damned flimsy. There had been brief periods of meaningful Chinese control in Tibet. By their argument, China ought to have been invading any number of countries in East and Southeast Asia.
        Actually, from an intellectual level, listening to her side of the debate on what justified the invasion is quite interesting. She firmly believes, from her childhood education, that the Chinese government was "liberating" Tibet when they went there. Just like they believe the CCP was liberating the rest of the country from dictatorial oppression during the revolution.

        There is strong belief that the Dali Lama was an illegitimate monarch who enslaved his people. And it's fascinating how the West and China see him so completely differently. Cruel dictator? The Dali Lama? Surely not.

        But of course listening to arguments on why there IS democracy in China is fascinating too.

        She did admit that one reason for the invasion was to create a defensive barrier, to take control of a strategic area when it came to mountain fortification. But yes, the idea of historic control of Tibet by China, by that argument Italy should claim control of most of Europe, they controlled it 2000 years ago (a longer claim then China over Tibet). And from the history I've read, for parts of this period, the control was the other way around - Tibet controlled large parts of China, they weren't always pacifist monks. :)

        That a government that has so frequently decried Western Imperialism (and in some cases rightfully so) has done precisely the same thing is bad, but to have a bunch of people overawed by the flawed logic that allows them overlook this behavior in their own government is a sad testament to just how evil nationalism truly is.
        Indeed it is my friend, nationalism is a scary thing which has probably in one way or another lead to most wars in human history. But it's such an easy emotion to exploit, the us and them. The idea you can externalize and blame another group for all your problems. And until we wake up and stop listening to the Bushs of the of the world when they say "you're either with us or against us," and see the world instead as shades of gray, I don't see much changing.
  • I guess the Chinese may also have figured that there's no point in blocking a site from a more restricted country than them. The UK or China -- which one has the 5 million security cameras again?
  • It might be that the BBC hasn't said anything vaguely challenging since Greg Dyke left and it was turned into a mouthpiece for New Labor (sic) and the middle England I-reckon-right brigade that supports them.
  • What! How dare they - this is just what you'd expect from an evil, communist country, blocking a news-service like BBC... Oh, hang on...

    Seriously, though, despite all the flak China keeps getting no matter what they do, they keep going forward, slowly, but steadily. I think they actually want to be a free, modern, democratic country. It's just that they know that it has to be done slowly - they only have to look to their neighbor, Russia, to see what happens if you just suddenly let go and try to be all thi
  • Googlebomb "Olympics" to lead to pages about Tibet!

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