Mainland China has always closely censored the Internet. Key words on “sensitive” issues like the Tiananmen Square massacre, 4 June, Taiwan and many more are blocked.
Since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, censorship has increased. Since the middle of last year, access to social networking platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook has also been blocked.
Google’s recent decision to stop censoring its Chinese research engine has caused a dispute with China so that it too has been blacked out. However, more and more Chinese netizens have been getting around the censorship.
Prominent blogger Jason Ng launched a survey last month to look into the phenomenon of scaling the Great Firewall of China.
He polled more than 5,300 mainlanders and found that most of those who circumvented government internet blocks were well-educated young people aged between 22 and 25.
In addition, two-thirds of the respondents said that they scaled the Great Firewall every day, especially to get to search engines like Google, followed by social networks like Facebook, and foreign news sources. About 30 per cent of the respondents admitted their purpose was to visit pornographic sites.
These wall scalers are not dangerous dissidents. Half of them said they would accept censorship if the authorities could provide a clearly defined law and be transparent about its enforcement.
According to the survey, 85 per cent of the respondents said they did not believe they were doing anything illegal and would teach their friends how to scale the wall. Only 38 per cent believe internet censorship should be completely abolished.
Since the sample is not representative, results should be taken with caution. Even so, some mainland internet and political analysts said the survey gave people a first look at the behaviour of mainland wall scalers.
Wen Yunchao, a Guangzhou-based internet analyst and technician who is also known as Beifeng, told the South China Morning Post it was impossible for mainland authorities to completely block services by virtual private networks (VPNs), mostly provided by overseas companies, because many multinational corporations and even embassies and consulates on the mainland are using such services.
This could favour the creation of sites with access to foreign news and networks.
It could also lead to the development of a market for proxy services for pay, one with a potentially large customer base.