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article imageChinese Censorship Of Tibet Protests Is Bypassed On Twitter

By Angelique van Engelen     Mar 21, 2008 in Politics
The Tibet protests have made Chinese authorities decide to block internet sites like YouTube and major mainstream Western media. But reports on Twitter and the Chinese version of this microblogging tool, Fanfou, bypass the censorship.
The Tibetans are campaigning for freedom from Chinese control which has lasted 60 years already. Rick Martin, a Canadian freelance journalist located in China, wrote a guest comment on Cnet Asia in which he outlined where most of the action is taking place and how to get to it. First of all, the Chinese version of Twitter is Fanfou. A star Chinese citizen reporter operating under the nickname Zola is constantly online. He’s also on Twitter.
Fanfou is of course Chinese language dominated but that should not deter you. Of the millions of users you’ll bound to find some who speak English. Also, a guy codenamed Dave, who writes TenementPalm, translates Chinese tweets about the Tibet events. He claims that NO, not all Chinese are ‘brainwashed’ and has published advice on how to conduct two way conversations on Fanfou. “These are Chinese people who adopt alot of Web 2.0 applications a lot of the time, they aren’t just blowhards in chat rooms. Some are journalists, professionals and students, ” Dave says. He also will assist in setting up a Fanfou account if you drop him a line via email.
A good search tool for Fanfou is Twifan. Try English searches or locate bloggers by searching in Chinese (inputting ?? apparently does the trick) and see if you get replies in English. These are a few people that report in English; Team Tibet (publishes uncensored videos) and this is TibetNews on Twitter. The BBC has this podcast on the situation and the personal risks that the Chinese take in using microblogging tools.
You can also redirect your Twitter feed on Fanfou. It’s another six months to the Olympics and protests are likely to continue, so it might be worth investing your time in all this. Check out this GlobalVoices guide for cyberdissidents.
The Chinese authorities are not impervious to Western reporting and it’s a good idea to contact your Chinese representatives with the questions they don’t allow their citizens to answer. The BBC must have done this because its world news editor Jon Williams recently wrote on the BBC editors blog that the Chinese London embassy was thinking about organizing a foreign press trip to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.
Wikileaks is hot on the trails too and unlike the established media is rapidly becoming the international platform for information that’s managed to bypass the proxy that the Chinese authorities have inserted on the internet, mainly via Fanfou and Twitter. Wikileaks also laments “the Chinese Public Security Bureau’s carte-blanche censorship of YouTube, the BBC, CNN, the Guardian and other sites.” This does not mean that Wikileaks is available to the Chinese, but the organization is at least picking up a function that the Chinese authorities try to deny the various regular media outlets. Wikileaks is specializing in this type of stuff; aggregating the dissident output of suppressed societies. At the moment there are 120 videos of the Tibet situation on Wikileaks that have bypassed censorship.
The Guardian has written a letter complaining about the censorship to Chinese authorities, and CNN’s Jaime FlorCruz, who runs the Beijing bureau, also has voiced concern, saying that the mainstream is virtually wiped off the map.
disclosure: Angelique van Engelen writes, a blog about journalism and Twitter.
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