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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 July 2006, 00:36 GMT 01:36 UK
Inside the great firewall of China
By Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
BBC News, Beijing

Net cafe
Many Chinese use strictly regulated internet cafes
More than 110 million people in China use the internet regularly. The country is going through a digital revolution as it seeks to capitalise on the online world while at the same time enforcing strict censorship measures.

But what does the internet mean to people in China? BBC News spoke to a dissident, a film-maker and a journalist.


Liu Xiaobo has taken part in every political movement in China in the last 30 years including the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations and the 1979 democracy wall movement.

He has been to prison twice and is banned from publishing any articles inside China.

In China, where there's no freedom of speech, the role of the internet is much bigger than in Western countries which enjoy free speech.

Since the days of Mao Zedong, the authorities have created a very closed prison of information. There is only one voice. But with the appearance of the internet, cracks are appearing all over this prison.

The internet is the best gift god could send to China for the people of China to claim their rights.

In the 1990s, when I wrote an article and wanted to send it to the foreign media, I had to ride my bike across the city to ask foreign friends to fax it for me. I was lucky if I could send one article a month like that.

And I couldn't see anything I'd written because the Chinese media wouldn't publish it.

With the internet, I can e-mail my articles abroad as soon as they're finished. The internet has changed my life dramatically.

More and more people are using different software developed to bypass the authorities' control and to get access to the blocked websites.

Whatever method the government uses to block the internet, it's doomed to failure because of technology and because of people's desire for more and more information.


Li Xinde is a 43 year old journalist. He used to work for a state-controlled newspaper. But thanks to the internet, now he feels like a "real journalist".

He has gone freelance; criss-crossing China by train looking for injustice and digging up scandal.

In China, news organisations like papers and magazine are subject to strict censorship - the media is manipulated by the Party.

What does that mean? It means the media is the Party's mouthpiece. All reports have to comply with the Party line. This is why I quit the job of the official media.

My benchmark is the truth. A journalist once asked me whether I dared to report a case related to a provincial level leader. I said all I care about is if there is evidence. With concrete evidence, I am not afraid to report any case; even if it touches senior officials.


Hu Ge has achieved minor fame across the net in China for his latest short film Empire of the Spring Migration.

The film is a satirical take on the world's biggest annual migration when hundreds of millions of Chinese workers cram aboard trains and head home to their villages for the Chinese New Year holiday.

I just did it to share with my friends. I wanted to make fun of this Chinese film I'd seen that I didn't like.

I never thought it would be seen by anyone else. I was surprised to hear that so many people are now watching my video.

This is a kind of liberation for people who want to publish their material.

In the past, if you were a song writer, a novelist, a film maker or a painter, you must have a deal with a TV station, a film company or a publisher.

With the internet, nowadays people can by-pass these traditional organizations and upload their works directly and pass your work directly to your audience.

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes' report into China and use of the net will be broadcast on the World Service on Wednesday.

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