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Censorship Your Rights Online Politics

UN Officials Remove Poster Mentioning Chinese Firewall 409

At a UN-sponsored Internet Governance Forum in Egypt, anti-censorship group Open Net Initiative was startled by a demand from UN officials to remove a poster mentioning Chinese Net censorship. When ONI refused the request, security personnel arrived and took away the poster. The group was promoting a new book, Access Controlled, a survey of Internet censorship, filtering, and online surveillance. A witness said, "The poster was thrown on the floor and we were told to remove it because of the reference to China and Tibet. We refused, and security guards came and removed it. The incident was witnessed by many." Here is a video of the removal.
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UN Officials Remove Poster Mentioning Chinese Firewall

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  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @07:07PM (#30109870)

    Anyone who thinks the U.N. exists in any way to help with human rights is insane. All you have to do is look at the list of nations on the U.S. Human Rights panel...

    The U.N. exists to exert and expand U.N. control, wherever possible (just like any large organization, government or otherwise). Helping people is at best a secondary motive and sometimes not even not even a motive at all.

  • Yes, thankfully (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @07:27PM (#30110038)

    If it exists to exert and expand UN control, it's doing an utterly terrible job of it.

    We are all lucky that the natural state of bureaucrats is one of ineptness.

    But the U.N. is doing a lot more behind the scenes than you realize, the recent inter-nation secret copyright treaty is one facet of that... people here care a lot about copyright issues which is why you know about it, but how many OTHER similar secret multi-national treaties are being drafted that you and I know nothing about?

  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @07:42PM (#30110146) Homepage Journal

    Prove it.

    No, i wasn't kidding. One of the dangers of having governmental entities in control of information, and most of it being recorded only digitally: "facts" are a variable commodity.

  • by ExRex ( 47177 ) <[ten.eruoja] [ta] [toille]> on Sunday November 15, 2009 @07:46PM (#30110170) Homepage
    That's not made clear in the article.
    Also, it was very odd the way everyone stood around the poster on the floor, not touching it or picking it up, as though it were a diseased, dead body which no one was willing to touch. So they called the police to come an take it away.
    Why didn't the folks promoting the book just stand it up again, I wonder?
  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @07:57PM (#30110266)

    Yep! Now who's the Super Power, again?

    The US government prints pieces of paper which Americans send to China. The Chinese make actual useful stuff and send it to America in return. Americans end up with a pile of useful stuff, Chinese end up with a pile of pieces of paper.

    Who's getting the worst of the deal here?

  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @08:08PM (#30110370) Journal
    "Why didn't the folks promoting the book just stand it up again, I wonder?"
    They might not have diplomatic immunity. 24 h in a local jail until their embassy finds them and clears up the little misunderstanding?
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @08:09PM (#30110372)

    Up next: China takes back Taiwan and the US Government does nothing.

    I think it's unlikely the US would do nothing - but in any case, China would have a very hard time taking back Taiwan by force, unless they decided to repeatedly throw nukes at them until all the Taiwanese were dead. The only way China has to reach them is by ship, and Taiwan does have a significant military that possesses pretty much the same weaponry the US military has.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 15, 2009 @08:27PM (#30110538)

    Seemingly, the poster was removed because it ostensibly violated a rule prohibiting posters that depict or mention human rights abuses. The part of the poster that ostensibly violates this rule is the mention of the Great Firewall. Thus, there is the obvious admission by whoever demanded the poster's removal, that the Great Firewall constitutes an abuse of human rights. The poster itself does not suggest or imply that it is a human rights violation, nearly so much as the poster's removal does.

  • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <> on Sunday November 15, 2009 @08:46PM (#30110642)

    > Helping people is at best a secondary motive and sometimes not even not even a motive at all.

    The UN actually does a good job doing what they were designed to do. It is just that most people were misled as to what they were designed to do. Look at how the UN was organized, one nation state, one vote in a world where most were unfree hellholes. The UN is thus essentially a Parliment of Tyrants, by design. So look at it's output and you will see it is actualy doing a good job of advancing the march of tyrany and human rights abuse.

    Turning the Internet over to the UN must, as night follows day, lead to the advancement of the goals of tyrants. Anyone shocked by this simply wasn't paying attention.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 15, 2009 @08:50PM (#30110658)


    Did you use Babelfish to translate that from Swahili?

    No. He used Babelfish to translate it from "Incomprehensible Thought Process Gibberish" to "Barely Comprehensible English Gibberish".

    He seems to be saying something about the UN existing only so that the US can pretend to listen to them except in cases where the US would rather not listen to them and goes ahead and does whatever the hell it wants to because the UN can't do a damn thing about it either way.

    He's still butthurt about the invasion of Iraq and Gitmo I think.

  • by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Sunday November 15, 2009 @08:56PM (#30110694)

    Then again: Prove that anyone or anything except for yourself exists at all. ^^

    There are no facts. There is only relative information, obtained trough channels with trust relationships. (How much do you trust your source? And how much do you trust your own eyes? What you think you know is relative to your source and the trust in it.)
    If it is a "fact" (which it can't) is actually irrelevant.

    The question is, what it makes out of you, and what you make of it.

  • by Jeremy Erwin ( 2054 ) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @09:08PM (#30110774) Journal

    Sure. The "true" Chinese government is based in Tapei, and they don't have a UN presence.

  • by Idiomatick ( 976696 ) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @09:09PM (#30110786)
    ? The video on youtube didn't work for you. Or are you saying that video could have been faked since it was digital...
  • Re:But hey... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lorenlal ( 164133 ) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @09:58PM (#30111066)

    - You don't know what this has to do with UN policy, it could be a cautious guard that doesn't want anyone rocking the boat during the group. Seems decently reasonable.

    Not rocking the boat would likely involve not making a scene such as this. In fact, the net effect is that more attention was drawn to the Great Firewall.

    - I saw no other posters at the convention. The poster could have been wildly inappropriate. If I went to a dinner about abortion methods for doctors where the topic was to discuss efficient safe methods. And I brought a big ass jesus loves your baby poster to the event it sure as hell would get taken down.

    It's possible that the poster was making a stir. I (obviously) don't know what it said, so we'll leave the inappropriate option out there. But in the example, the big ass Jesus poster would probably be left alone at an event like that. Granted... If they took down the Jesus poster, then the backlash and the PR that could be generated from that would be much worse... See this whole incident as an example.

    - Maybe the guard was an idiot... Who knocks a poster onto the floor? Taking it away makes sense, so fine do that. But the fact that the guy knocked it onto the floor hints that he was a bit of a nutter. Which would point to him not being the absolute representative of the UN.

    He was UN security that was called in after a request to remove the poster. There was someone who thought it was a bad idea to criticize the Great Firewall. I'll concur that the guard was an idiot... Unless he decided that he wanted to make a scene, in which case he was quite effective.

    - Do try to apply occam's razor.
    Anyone else want to play devils advocate with me. The raw emotional responses on /. are a bit worrisome. Lets not all jump to conclusions out of how bad this COULD be.

    I do. And I think that the UN's on edge with China, especially lately. Riling them up isn't considered a good idea. I also wouldn't be surprised if the UN thought, "Oh crap, the Chinese are going to spit fire on us if they see it."

    The GF is considered a great example of not allowing information to be free. I think that many of us on here find that simple fact quite offensive. I also find it not surprising that many of us react so emotionally because we have this image of over a billion people being lied to constantly on the part of their government. I personally react the way I do because I don't want that to happen to me.

    As for whether or not it is already... I'm not going there.

  • Re:Yes, thankfully (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sapphire wyvern ( 1153271 ) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @10:18PM (#30111146)

    As I understand, ACTA is being negotiated directly between representatives of the various countries. The UN, as an entity, is not involved, although obviously the states involved in ACTA are all member states of the UN as well.

  • by sasha328 ( 203458 ) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @10:47PM (#30111364) Homepage

    From the UN Charter (the treaty that established it in the 1940s) as a successor to the League of Nations:

    This is from Wikipedia []

    Chapter 1, Article 1 of the UN Charter states

    The Purposes of the United Nations are[1]

          1. To maintain international peace and security, to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;
          2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;
          3. To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and
          4. To be a center for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.

    Chapter 1, Article 2 of the UN Charter states

    The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles:[1]

          1. The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.
          2. All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.
          3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
          4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
          5. All Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter, and shall refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.
          6. The Organization shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.
          7. Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll.

    Two phrases: 1- "Peace and Security" and 2- "the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members." define and determine why it is so slow to act and is usually ineffective when it comes to "sovereignty" issues. It's technical arms (which usually don't threaten any sovereignty) tend to be quite good.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 15, 2009 @11:04PM (#30111496)

    The intentions behind the UN were good, but it was a funamental error to make the organisation open to any country that accepts its basic principles, which essentially amount to not invading each other. Since adherence to the UDHR isn't mandatory for membership, the UN is full of dictatorships that repress human rights, but are able through sheer numbers to gain influence over the direction of UN policies.

    The Security Council helps to constrain the influence of the large number of tin-pot dictatorships and fanatical religious regimes (primarily Islamic) in the General Assembly by granting a veto to the permanent members, including a few large democracies. However, the fact that a repressive dictatorship like the People's Republic of China is also a permanent member makes the whole thing a mockery.

    The idea that the UN exists to increase its own power seems rather silly to me. The UN has very little power, and the tinpot dictators, religious fanatics and Chinese Communist Party want to keep it that way. They want an organisation that is impotent to promote the ideals of human rights on which the UN was founded, and instead spends its time on trivialities.

    If countries that sytematically violate the UDHR, including most Muslim countries and Marxist/fascist dictatorships like China, were expelled from the UN, it might actually be able to return to the ideals on which it was founded. Without a major change like that, it will remain an irrelevance. Countries that actually care about democracy and human rights would be better off starting over.

  • by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Sunday November 15, 2009 @11:19PM (#30111596)

    In Germany and France, freedom of speech is a basic human right. Anyone -- citizen and non-citizen -- in Germany and France is entitled to freedom of speech.

    Are you freaking kidding me? In France, you can't even wear a small catholic cross around your neck to a public school, unless it's well hidden under your shirt. And in both France and Germany, books like "Mein Kampf" and so-called nazi paraphernalia are banned (not that this does any good mind you, it only makes the extreme right feel more victimized and it drove that kind of market for that stuff underground).

    And in France at least, there is an unspoken understanding between the press and the government. You don't say anything to embarrass government officials, and you get to keep your job. In France, the government has so much influence over every area of life, it make life very difficult if any of its citizen gets out of line. By the way, I know this because I'm French, I was born in France, and I've lived part of my life in France.

  • by astar ( 203020 ) <> on Monday November 16, 2009 @12:01AM (#30111826) Homepage

    limited to no freedom of speech:

    My impression is that the Chinese can pretty well say what they want, as long as it does not threaten the one-party rule.

    As far as child labor is concerned, I was not so sure, so I googled a bit. It appears that the national government is down on child labor (under 16), but local governments often turn a blind eye.

    Here is my reference: []

    As various sources within the Chinese media have pointed out, documenting occupational health and safety problems among child labourers is inherently difficult because Chinese labour law bans child labour. One newly passed regulation makes the hiring of a minor punishable by a fine of 5000 Yuan per worker (cumulative per month of employ) and suspension of the employer's operating license. Other laws criminalize the placing of underage workers in potentially hazardous situations and forced bonding of a child for the purpose of labour (3). The problem lies not so much with regulation but lack of enforcement. Indeed, despite stiffer penalties, the problem of child labour has only become more serious in recent years. A growing economy coupled with a growing economic disparity provides a fertile ground for exploitation of societies most vulnerable members. Local governments, in a headlong rush to woo manufacturers into their districts are often reticent to enforce regulations against child labour, which might act as an impediment to local economic growth.

    The problem of juvenile labour in China is far too multifaceted to be summarized in black and white terms. To address these complexities, we suggest that further and deeper studies into the root causes of the problem be carried out. We see these root causes as being a growing economic disparity in China, a rapidly changing social structure, and a failure of the Chinese educational system to provide adequate and affordable education to all children. Until these issues are addressed, it is our belief that the problem of child labour in China will continue to grow, and as it does incidents involving the injury and death of juvenile workers will continue. (4)

    freedom of religion: I googled that. Here is an interesting article: []

    Not a good situation, but I think the statement no freedom of worship goes too far. But the Chinese government has rules, and we do too (for instance, tax exempt status requirements), The difference is that the IRS does not kill you. Perhaps from the wikipedia article, I note that the official complaint about the Roman Catholic church is not different than one that was popular in the US. Then, again, you may be too young to remember the JFK election campaign. Still, it would seem that the real issue is the role of the Roman Catholic church in the events leading up to the fall of the Soviet Union.

    middle class: I guess the Chinese now have more millionaires than the US. I suspect the middle class is developing nicely too.

    I am not sure how to classify the Chinese economy, but I suspect a lot of the problems come from the process of accumulation. Communist, socialist, or capitialist accumulation has not been pretty. It does not have to be that way, IMO, but the emperically the historical record is pretty clear.

  • by TrisexualPuppy ( 976893 ) on Monday November 16, 2009 @12:53AM (#30112072)
    So that's what's not made clear in the article. It's kinda strange the way everyone stood around the poster on the floor and didn't even touch it or pick it up.

    Almost as though it were an ebola victim just sitting there, dead and contagious. Crazy, right? And they called the cops to come and dispose of it.

    Now here's my question--I wonder why the folks promoting the book didn't just stand it up again...
  • by obarthelemy ( 160321 ) on Monday November 16, 2009 @01:24AM (#30112224)

    Is it the custom in the US to use a person's middle name too, or just a way reactionnary focus groups have found to lump to gather Saddam and Obama ?

    I'm asking because I only ever saw John McCain, Sarah Palin, Bill Clinton... but I keep seeing Barack Hussein Obama ?

  • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday November 16, 2009 @01:56AM (#30112374) Journal

    Even the current President would go to the aid of Taiwan. It is a long-term strategic partner of the US.

    As to Afghanistan, well, maybe for once there might be an intelligent decision. The Afghanis sent every super power over the last few centuries packing, and a bunch of Republican morons who probably haven't opened up a history book in their lives are going "Obama is indecisive" would have NATO emulate the Soviets, and we all know how that went.

    Under the long-standing NATO strategy, the Taliban basically went from hiding in mountains from American bombs to wanton suicide bomb attacks in Kabul. What's more, NATO has basically had to stay in bed with a crook who stole an election. That might not be so bad, but said crook can barely control an area of about 50 square miles around Kabul, and is pretty much persona non grata throughout the rest of the region.

    But I guess to historically-illiterate morons like yourself, it can all be solved by just sending in more troops, because that worked for the Brits and the Russians oh so very well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 16, 2009 @04:53AM (#30113138)

    I am French, living in France and I am absolutely convinced freedom of speech is not a right here.

    On the contrary there are laws about what you are not authorized to say even in private events.
    I don't want to be offensive but there are specific laws on the correct and forbidden opinion about about religions, minorities, about history. You don't have the right to express your opinion if it's not mainstream.

    You can't choose who you will recruit as you must have a quota of disabled people, a quota about origin (we don't talk about race but about our ghettos like 93, Lyon north and east, Marseille north, but the result is similar). It's especially frightening as less and less people are speaking a correct French, how can you recruit someone speaking an Algerian French dialect? they do not even know they are not speaking French. Most probably it will ceased to be a problem in 20 years when everybody will use the same Algerian French dialect.

    There is also the unsaid which is done by an untold collaboration between State, press and advertisement industry: The moral pressure especially through advertisement is high toward a very poor but multicultural society third world dictatorship a la Chavez or a la Castro. Have a look at any Ouest France or Telerama.

    There is also the every day's life moral pressure: You don't have the right to express anything that is not a socially syrupy but far left opinion.

  • by Jesus_666 ( 702802 ) on Monday November 16, 2009 @07:19AM (#30113722)

    If a Chinese agent attempted to tear down similar posters in Germany, the German police would arrest the Chinese nitwit and throw him into prison for a few days.

    Actually, they'd probably just escort him off the premises and he'd get an order to stay away* for the remainder of the conference (and possibly longer).

    * I think it's interesting that the German language has two words for this while the English one doesn't (at least non I can find right now). The German words are "Hausverbot" (the owner of the premises disallows someone to enter; violation of this can be found an act of trespassing on a case-by-case basis) and "Platzverweis" (the police order someone to leave an area, usually for up to 24 hours; used against disruptive people; can't be used against members of an assembly unless they're excluded from the assembly).
    In this case, both could be applied - the Chinese agent would be excluded from the conference and disallowed to attend future conferences in the same place and the tearing of the poster could be reported to the police as an act of vandalism.

  • Re:Values (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 16, 2009 @10:10AM (#30114736)

    Article 24
    All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari'ah.

    Article 25
    The Islamic Shari'ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification to any of the articles of this Declaration.

    Was the declaration tl;dr, or are you ignorant of the fact that Shari'ah taking precedence would negate much (if not all) of the declaration?

  • by jacksonj04 ( 800021 ) <> on Monday November 16, 2009 @10:31AM (#30114952) Homepage

    I'm actually quite impressed with the French approach to religion in public. Either everybody can show their religion freely, or nobody can. Compare and contrast with the UK, where there have been instances of nurses being told to remove any and all religious symbology... oh, unless you're muslim, in which case headscarves are fine. Oh, and jews are cool with the skullcap. Whilst we're at it, sikhs can all wear turbans. In fact, just take off any christian symbols.

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