The following is a copy of the script which I used for the presentation on Press and Broadcasting Freedom. I asked my Chinese friend Jeremy if he wouldn’t mind helping me replicate an interrogation, in which I’d be a journalist detained in China and would be a state policeman giving me a grilling.
The script illustrates both Chinese and Western points of view on press and broadcasting freedom. We worked separately on our questions and answers in order to make it as realistic as possible. I hope it provided those present with an insight into why the Chinese authorities consider the internet to be such a threat to national security.
1.Which organization do you work for? BBC? CNN? What’s your nationality?
None of those, I’m just a freelance journalist.
2. What’s made you come all the way here to Xinjiang? It’s not a holiday destination!
I’ve been investigating how your government blocked internet access in the region after the July riot. I’ve come to verify this. What’s wrong with that? I got this information from a Western source.
3. We have to block internet access in the name of national security. Because ethnic terrorists manipulate internet for terrorist activities which destabilizes the country. Would you not think it’s necessary for the security of innocent citizens?
I’d argue that if there were a terrorist threat, blocking internet access wouldn’t prevent from further violent acts. I think your government can harness the internet effectively as a propaganda tool to promote stability in the region.
The government should not have tried to block information from its own citizens regarding the earthquake in Sichuan.70 thousand people perished! If it weren’t for all the people that took videos and photos and posted them on blogs on the internet, the whole world would not have known except the Chinese authority!
4. Mr. Dunham, the Chinese Government has to monitor the internet very carefully to prevent the misuse of the internet and guarantee our national security. I believe we have the technological capacity to do so!
Let’s face it, China has more internet users than any other country in the world, 253 million! Even if you have 30 thousand cadets secretly policing the web full time, even if you have the best firewalls and you’ve made a massive investment on censoring those who might be critical of the government, you’ll never be 100% sure to stop information from coming out!
And you’re playing cat and mouse with the web. The power of the internet is boosting the economy, Chinese businesses live by exporting and contacting customers, Chinese universities get information from western universities. Even the people of Xinjiang need the internet to prosper. You’ll never be able to just switch off the internet, you need it! In fact, Chinese people, including government officials, use Google software and email accounts to communicate with each other. I cannot understand why you are trying to hack into human rights activists’ gmail accounts!
5. Again we have to monitor the use of the internet for our national security. These people you are referring to are not human rights activists. They have endangered our national security. Do you think that your governments don’t monitor what goes on the web? Despite of your views, I think China still has great press freedom at the presence of internet censorship. Nowadays, Chinese citizens can have their opinions read without being censored by the regime, as it used to be for the press. Why do you Westerners think that monitoring the internet is such a huge threat to press freedom?
Because the state is using the internet as a tool to control the flow of information to Chinese citizens in order to shape their opinions. Your government has started recruiting internet commentators to post positive comments about the authorities. You call them the 50 cent army, right? Because for each article or comments people write, they get 50 cents. 300thousand people in China posting partisan information on the web!
And although the internet provides people the means to publish their opinions publicly without having to get approval from the government, and also access foreign media, the Chinese authorities are doing their very best to censor anything which is critical or deemed an enemy of the state. Take Falung…