As per usual, troubling news keeps coming out of China about internet censorship.
by Eugene Michaels
Just a week ago many VPN providers were hit by a significant wave of blocking, which made it very hard for the people in the Mainland to access the internet. Furthermore, HBO was also blocked by China due to the recent episode of “Last Week Tonight” during which John Oliver criticised the authoritarian rule of Xi Jinping.
Nevertheless, some positive news regarding VPNs and the internet can still emerge from the Mainland China. Fingers crossed this story is not a mere speculation. Well, at least the Chinese media is still reporting on it, which should be a good sign.
Not long ago, a three-year plan was published by Hainan’s government outlining the plans to improve the trading and tourism industries of the island. The biggest goal of this initiative is to turn Hainan into a free-trade port by the year 2020, which should be done by improving the infrastructure, businesses, hiring over 50 thousand people, and increasing the number of international students. However, these, no matter how impressive ideas, were not the main stars of the plan.
The most discussed point was the initiative to lift the internet censorship in some parts of Hainan, namely, Haikou and Sanya. This decision came as a massive surprise to everyone. As it is well known across the interwebs, the Chinese government has the domestic internet in a stronghold. Were Hainan to get even partially freer web access, it would have a substantial impact for the province and the nation.
Nonetheless, this being China, even a plan that sounds this positive, is not without the exceptions. First of all, the implementation of the censorship lift may be questionable, as the three-year action plan itself has been removed from the official website. Secondly, the censorship would be abolished only for selected services – Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. No other social media portals or blocked sites were mentioned. Lastly, and most importantly, the censorship lift is intended only for the foreign tourists visiting the island and not the local Chinese.
The latter point completely disregards the local demands and hinders the connectivity between China and the foreign countries. Furthermore, the government even managed to censor comments about this news on the domestic social media. Vast numbers of Weibo users tried to share their opinion, but their discussions were deleted. Such actions are entirely paradoxical. As on the one hand, China is trying to open to the outside world, but on the other hand, they are only restricting the domestic freedoms more and more.
The better solution to the people wanting free access to the internet in China is not to wait for the government to decide whom to give the “privilege” and take the unlimited internet as a right by using a VPN service. This way both foreign visitors and residents will be able to access everything the web has to offer without the fear of being watched.