In the wake of anti-government protests across the Middle East and North Africa, China is cracking down on any signs of protest among its people, who live under a Communist regime that maintains strict control of the country. Although there is a general perception outside of China that the government cracks down on all critical media reports and citizens who don't agree with them, the government does tolerate some criticism - as long as it's not overtly political.
Journalists in China are operating under new regulations made in the wake of protests in the Arab world. The regulations say that reports on collective actions pointing towards and focusing on the party and the government or on political reform are not tolerated. However, journalists working on stories about other topics, like health care or the environment, were allowed to work freely without being accompanied by government "minders."
Scholars and researchers working in China say they often have a hard time knowing where the line is when it comes to finding flaws with the government. For example, Wu Lihong, an environmental activist who once received an award from the government for his work, was later imprisoned after his investigations dug deeper than the government wanted.
Today, many of the government's censorship efforts are aimed at the Internet, where revolutionaries in the Arab world planned their uprisings. Beijing's so-called Great Firewall currently blocks various Internet and social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, which helped fuel the protests in the Middle East.
"In the beginning, I used to work with the local government for the investigations. But the deeper we went, the more frightened they got. They told me to stop investigating. Because I kept telling the truth, they fired me." - Wu Lihong, environmental activist
"People have the freedom to speak out what they think, what they suggest, as long as you -- you say things for the country, for the people, right? Positive or negative, it's fine. You know, the government can listen to it, can, you know, ignore it. But they now begin to let you say it. I think that's good. That's very good progress and changes in China, which were not possible not long ago." - Gordon Liu, Peking University
"We try to make, you know, judgments about the situation and try to see how far, you know, we can go. So every day it's a kind of balancing game for us to play. It's not easy. We don't want to see chaos in this country. We want this boat to move forward, but also in a -- you know, try to avoid some of the torrents and big problems." Ma Jun, Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs
1. What is censorship?
2. What is a government? What kinds of governments exist in the world?
3. What kind of government does China have? How does it differ from the U.S. government?
1. Now that the Chinese government is allowing some investigation into its operations, why might it be hard for researchers and activists to know where the “line” is as they’re doing their work? If you lived in China, would you undertake controversial research if you knew you might get in trouble for it? Why or why not?
2. Why would the Chinese government send “minders” with journalists who were covering certain stories?
3. Why do you think the Chinese government tolerates some protests among its people but is so strict about Internet access? How might that strategy help it stay in power?
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