A “bitter winter” of controls for China’s Internet

By David Bandurski — Chinese journalist and blogger Tan Yifei (谭翊飞) wrote earlier this week that “China’s Internet is now going through a most bitter winter [of regulation and censorship controls].” Tan’s remarks would seem to support the suggestion that Google’s decision to go public with its frustrations was at least partly the result of intensifying government pressure in China, a market Google’s chief legal officer said this week had become “intolerable for us.”

Tan writes:

The day before yesterday, I was in the city of Chongqing and I sat down for beers and grilled fish with a group of friends in IT. An air of desolation and death is prevailing in the IT sector as a result of severe controls. One of these friends was preparing his immigration papers. Another joked cooly that he would switch careers and start selling barbecue. China’s Internet is now going through a most bitter winter [of regulation and censorship controls].

I saw news yesterday that aside from the recent ban on individuals registering CN domains, an order had suddenly come down that all individually registered CN domains would be reviewed before January 31, and all overseas agency services for the registration of CN domains would be prohibited.

China’s Web is in the midst of a clean-up and rectification campaign such as has never before been seen. Internet Data Centers at Shanghai Mobile, Shanghai Telecom Company, Bengbu Telecom Company [in Anhui], Jingdezhen Telecom Company, Shandong Unicom and Chengdu Shahebao have been collectively pulled offline for rectification, and have not yet been restored.

Below is a screenshot we took at 12:32 p.m. today of a notice dated December 9, 2009, announcing the temporary shutdown of the Chengdu Shahebao IDC (成都沙河堡机房). These shutdowns were part of the general Internet purge reported last month by the Wall Street Journal and others.

News coverage late last month in China unambiguously reported the shut down of IDC’s as a “shock therapy” action to combat indecent content:

Beginning in late November, services at IDC’s run by telecommunications operators in many provinces and cities across the country were interrupted, temporarily shut down or services thoroughly stopped. In the midst of this, many Websites were shut down without warning, affecting the normal operations of many Websites.

In fact, this round of “Website incidents” is not caused by attacks, but rather by the use of “shock therapy” by various regional IDC’s to prompt self-inspection and correction among Internet services.

IM286.com founder Dong Qinfeng (董勤锋) said his site was unavoidably dragged into this storm. Dong Qinfeng said that the method now being employed by the IDCs was one of “first shutting down, then carrying out inspections” (先封再查), which meant first cutting off all servers and then culling through servers one at a time. Service could be restored for those without problems.

For a good timeline of Internet censorship events in China in 2009, we recommend this post from Tania Branigan at The Guardian.

[Posted by David Bandurski, January 16, 2010, 1:39pm HK]

[Frontpage photo by thaths available at Flickr.com under Creative Commons license.]

4 Comments to “A “bitter winter” of controls for China’s Internet”

  1. [...] later characterized as “the pullout.”  Some others have characterized 2010 as a “bitter winter” for the Chinese internet overall.  In fact, according to the saying “guo jin, min [...]

  2. [...] sabotage activities.’ Shortly after the Google’s announcement, Chinese journalist and blogger Tan Yifei wrote that ‘China’s internet is now going through the bitterest [...]

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