Cina: chiude Bullog, uno dei più popolari blog del Paese

Pechino, Cina – uno dei più popolari blog in Cina, Bullog, è stato chiuso per la quarta volta. L’accusa è di aver diffuso informazioni “dannose” attraverso il sito.

Segue l’articolo in inglese

Bejing – On the afternoon of Jan 9, Luo Yonghao, the founder of Bullog, a popular blog aggregator, was told the site would be shut down for the fourth and probably final time. A written statement later confirmed that Bullog had been punished for failing to remove “harmful” information from the site, which was home to 150 of China’s most influential bloggers.

The move, which has been accompanied by the shutdown of more than 1,250 “illegal websites” this month – most for allegedly containing pornography – is being seen as the first assault this year in the government’s campaign to rein in an increasingly rebellious internet community.

“The Year 2009 will see a reign of terror on mass communications,” one blogger wrote.
Last year marked a turning point for the internet in China, with bloggers becoming active in publicising cases of official wrongdoing. In December, there was the internet launch of Charter 08, a manifesto calling for political and economic reforms that rattled the Communist Party.

And 2009 promises to be even more worrisome for party leaders, already losing sleep over a faltering economy and a rise in protests. The year marks a string of sensitive anniversaries: it has been 60 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, 50 years since the Dalai Lama fled to India and 20 years since the bloody crackdown against student protesters.

But despite the challenge it faces from the internet, analysts said the Communist Party of China is in no danger of being toppled.

“They’re nowhere close to where they’re going to fall,” said Rebecca MacKinnon, a fellow at the Open Society Institute and an expert on internet usage in China.

“People are getting more active about what they’re talking about online but I’ve not seen evidence that it’s gotten beyond a certain point,” she said. “Are there enough people out there who are willing to risk their jobs to go out on the street?”

Ms MacKinnon, however, said the internet is changing the relationship between people and the government at a time when internet usage is exploding. The number of netizens hit 298 million at the end of 2008, a year-on-year increase of 41.9 per cent, according to a report by the China Internet Network Information Center. And many of these netizens are abandoning traditional media.

“More and more people are turning away from the mainstream media to the internet and blogs for their information,” said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California, Berkeley. Southern Metropolis Weekly recently ran a list of the 20 most influential figures in cyberspace, saying the internet had given Chinese “an unprecedented platform to express themselves”.

The article went on to say that traditional elites in China could no longer monopolise the shaping of public opinion and that “ordinary citizens and anonymous bloggers are becoming more and more influential”.

Zhao Jing, better known as Michael Anti, whose own political blog was shut down by Microsoft three years ago, said 2008 was a turning point for blogs. He said some of this growing interest has been created by hip bloggers, such as the artist Ai Weiwei and the author Han Han, China’s most popular blogger with more than 210m hits.

The outspoken postings by these bloggers have struck a chord with netizens, particularly the young, many of whom were apolitical until recently. “Young people don’t read political blogs, but they will read Han Han,” said Mr Anti, adding that as a result, political ideals are being popularised among everyday Chinese.

“They’re merging politics with fashionability and that’s very dangerous for the authorities.”

Internet vigilantes, known in Chinese as “human flesh search engines”, uncovered numerous cases of official corruption over the past year. In one case, an official in Nanjing came under investigation after netizens noticed in a photo he was wearing a Vacheron Constantin watch, said to be worth US$20,000 (Dh73,500). This month, netizens posted scans of receipts for massages allegedly expensed by an auditing official in a small town in Zhejiang province.

When asked if the government can rein in the internet, Mr Xiao said: “You can control the impact to a certain degree, but you can’t put those voices back in the box.

“You really can’t censor someone like Han Han or Ai Weiwei. If you block one of their postings, it’s posted again elsewhere and it goes round and round.”

Paul Mooney, Foreign Correspondent The National, 30 January 2009

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