Mr. Dunham vs Mr. Gong

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…

10 Responses to “Mr. Dunham vs Mr. Gong”

  1. 1 smilejames March 21, 2010 at 9:18 am

    My friend told me a story about a guy he met in some kind of Law Exhibition in London.

    He was introduced to a Chinese guy around his age who had been in the country for around 2 weeks, he spoke good English apparently.

    They were chatting for a while when my friend asked him:
    “what are things like in China at the moment, with the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square protests coming up?”

    Apparently he looked at my friend blankly and said:
    “The what square?”

  2. 2 Chris Winsley March 21, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    I spoke to Jeremy, a few times after your presentation. I was shocked to hear the realities of regulation in China. It’s certainly not a concept I can grasp easily- we have grown up in a time when the little regulation that exists is the norm- and how press freedom is not actually as restricted as we think in the UK.

    Jeremy said he was shocked at the way the press operated in this country- it was nothing like where he was from. Should we start to look at the whole situation from the two perspectives- he certainly didn’t see anything wrong with the heavy censorship in China- BUT was well aware of it.

  3. 3 smile2010 March 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    I recently interviewed Sarah Cohen who is spearheading a new field in Journalism called Computational Journalism. I asked her how easy it is to get access to information (databases) from International organisations such as UN.

    Her reply left me somewhat concerned: “I know that they have no open records, very limited records that you can get from them. My suspicion is that things like that tend to drive toward the lowest common denominator. So the least open countries would tend to drive the polices of the umbrella organisation.”

    If this is true, since the lowest common denominator in regards to press freedom is China, it will have a huge impact on how effectively journalists can monitor UN.


  4. 4 andyhaden March 21, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    There was a Chinese girl in my class when I was doing my undergrad. Following a lecture on political subversion & anti-government activity online, she took me aside to ask whether we were allowed to repeat what we’d just been discussing, and was incredibly shocked to discover that it was all entirely legal.

  5. 5 rjnewsome March 21, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    I think the internet poses a threat to the Chinese government and it’s authority due to the fact people can remain anonymous.

    I was in China in 2007 and spent lots of time talking to locals who were always terrified of speaking about the government, not necessarily criticising but just mentioning them at all. The internet could potentially give those people a voice.

  6. 6 alexdunham March 21, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Here’s what the BBC World Service found out about why the Chinese government censors the internet.

  7. 7 Jason Edwards March 21, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    I recently completed a print article comparing the lives of two journalists working in China. I interviewed Holly Williams of Sky News and Shangming Zuo of China Electronic News. The differences between journalism in China and journalism in the Britain are huge…the reason: different media cultures.

    In China, journalists, citizens and government expect positive news, 24 hours a day. There can be some negative, critical news about industry or business (only if the government permits its), but this must be balanced by at least 50% positive news reporting. In Britain, it is natural for the media to be always critical of state institutions, business, etc, something China does not naturally permit.

    It comes down to a clash of cultures and ideals. In China, you are expected to follow the rules and norms of this ‘cultural consensus’…severe penalties await if you do not. This is a reason why international journalists naturally find some hostility in the PRC – they are naturally critaival of the government and or business in China. In Britain, there are few rules are regulations on journalists; here there is freedom of speech.


    Note: I explain the above better in my print article; contact me if you would like to read it.

  8. 8 kphil101 March 21, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    came across this, never knew some of those countries did such things to regulate themselves!

    But take a look mid way through to China

    The Chinese have relaxed censorship recently. At one time, all users had to register with the police, a requirement that has since been waived


  9. 10 kphil101 March 21, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    sorry came across it had to post it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: