DHARAMSHALA, July 25: Internet control in China has become even more sophisticated and pervasive under the leadership of the country’s new Communist Party bosses headed by President Xi Jinping, a new report has found out.
Freedom House, an independent watchdog organisation dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world, made the revelations in a special report titled, ‘Throttling Dissent: China's New Leaders Refine Internet Control
,’ which was released on Wednesday.
“China’s internet controls, which were already among the most extensive in the world, have grown even more sophisticated and pervasive under the new Communist Party leadership,” the report said.
“New regulations made it harder for activists to conceal their identity online while some circumvention tools, which help users access uncensored websites overseas, were significantly disrupted. Private companies also stepped up their capacity to delete banned content, sometimes within minutes.”
Madeline Earp, research analyst for Freedom on the Net at Freedom House, while releasing the report said that the growing trend of Chinese netizens adopting tools and workarounds to circumvent censorship is a sign of “tremendous public demand for internet freedom.”
“But instead of relaxing control, CCP leaders under President Xi Jinping are refining China’s technical and regulatory apparatus to stop citizens from evading censorship and surveillance,” Earp noted.
The report includes an assessment of internet access in China and how it is curtailed; a new generation of censorship and manipulation techniques that govern content; and the laws and regulations used to find and punish individuals who disobey the rules.
It states that Chinese authorities employ “the most elaborate system for internet content control in the world” to keep track of its online population estimated at 564 million. Government agencies and private companies employ thousands of people to monitor, censor, and manipulate content, from news reports to social-network pages. Authoritarian regimes around the world look to Chinese methods of information control as a model, the 47-page report says.
Freedom House further finds that during the coverage period for the report from May 1, 2012, to April 30, 2013, information of unrest, such as Tibetans self-immolating, were “especially curtailed.”
“In Tibet and Xinjiang, police searched mobile handsets for banned content, and jailed dozens for using digital tools,” the report notes. “Tibetans, Uighurs and other individuals and groups subject to monitoring have been frequently targeted with e-mailed programs that install spyware on the user’s device.”
Last month, Chinese officials in central Tibet announced that they had completed the implementation of a stringent monitoring system
requiring the restive region’s more than 4 million Internet, fixed telephone line, and mobile phone users to register under their real names.
According to the report, by the end of 2012, 2.76 million fixed line and mobile phone users and 1.47 million web users in Tibet had registered for services under their real identities, as required by a 2011 local regulation.
Scores of Tibetans have been arrested and sentenced to lengthy jail terms for attempting to contact people outside Tibet and sending pictures and information on protests inside Tibet.
In June 2012, Lho Younten Gyatso
, 37, a senior monk of Khashi Geyphel Samtenling Monastery, was sentenced to seven years in prison on alleged crimes of sharing sensitive information on the self-immolation protests and attempting to contact the United Nations.
Earlier this year in March, Chinese authorities carried out a major crackdown on mobile phones
in the Tibetan capital Lhasa as part of a security drive to stem the flow of information from Tibet.
China is rated Not Free across Freedom House’s signature reports, Freedom in the World 2013, Freedom of the Press 2013 and Freedom on the Net 2012.