Arts & Culture 
 Human Rights 
 U.S. Asian Policy 

Home > East Asia > 

The Internet police should be abolished
Ren Bumei

 Related Articles
Traditional Culture: One Must Pay Back One's Debts
Acts Upon a Stage (Part 5 of 5)
Acts Upon a Stage (Part 4)
Acts Upon a Stage (Part 3)
Taiwan's Culture of Food
Acts Upon a Stage (Part II)
Chinese Dance in Ancient History
Acts Upon a Stage (Part I)
A Story from History: Jiang Balang Paid His Debt
China's Slavery Scandal Reveals Weaknesses in Governance
Since the end of August, Beijing has intensified its campaign to close cultural web sites. After the website “Bumei’s Night” was closed for the fifth time, the “Bumei Thought Forum” website reached a new historical record when it was forced to find a new home for the thirty-third time. Although it has found a new residence on the tiny site “White Flower in Dreams,” we know very well that tomorrow we may be forced to once again wander seeking a new home.

We are seeing such immature behavior in this fight. The all-powerful State cannot tolerate a powerless but critical website such as “Bumei’s Night” and is mobilizing its full force to kill it. The reason the State is acting this way is because more and more people are shifting their attention from official mouthpieces to our tiny site, which has been steadfast in exposing the big lie of the “great, glorious and correct” Communist Party rationally and esthetically.

The State absolutely cannot tolerate the truth, or questions about its legitimacy- it knows itself to be illegitimate and fears the people will come to see this. This is not merely a competition for the people’s attention; it also demonstrates the decaying aristocracy’s envy and fear of new forces.

This mafia-like action is an acknowledgement that the State has lost the competition. The State is destroying the websites of its citizens because it cannot force viewers to flock to the “People’s Web,” something Mao would certainly have been able to do in his time. There is no longer any sense of shame in our time.

The State is an old and ugly witch bent on taking all necessary measures to exorcise anything capable of challenging or threatening her slipping authority. Yet the State pretends to be completely innocent and acts as if nothing has happened.

The various “spokespersons” have been superb geniuses in proving that the State is innocent and blameless. In Shanghai, the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the Zhou Zhengyi corruption case is now on trial. The State has degenerated to such a degree that it is openly defending corruption to the bitter end.

(Note: Zhou Zhengyi is a tremendously wealthy Chinese businessman who collaborated with the Bank of China to manipulate the stock market.)

Dual Needs of High-Level Authorities and Internet Police

We are living in such a “wonderful society.” Wolfpacks from the authorities are running amuck on every street, and disgusting “modern” performances are presented at the same time. We do not know for sure what triggered the latest political convulsion of closing websites. According to our experiences, Beijing often carries out operations to suffocate free speech on the eves of political masquerades, celebrations, or other sensitive dates. This time it is different, and it is therefore difficult to pinpoint the cause of this round of speech suppression.

Some say that the emperor wants his subjects to be quiet before the 3rd Plenary Session of the 16th Communist Party Congress, which does not sound too convincing.

I am more inclined to believe the following analysis: Driven by their own organizational interests, the Internet Police Force has to periodically or randomly crack down on and “clean up” the Internet.

These organizational interests have two components: the first component is material, as only repeated crackdowns can justify the existence of this police force and offer a political excuse for its budget. The second component is purely psychological, because the crackdowns demonstrate the indispensability of the Internet Police or the willpower of an authoritarian personality. According to this analysis, the speech blockade is not only necessary for the political or ideological stability of the highest authorities, but is also essential to the very existence of the Internet Police itself.

In other words, the “State” established the Internet Police Force out of the need to protect its loot, and at the same time created yet another need, because the Police Force has to create instability out of its own economic or political necessity. Economic and political conflicts between the State and Internet Police thus came into existence, but in a totalitarian State the conflicts represent exploitable human behavior.

The problem is that the establishment of the Internet Police is nothing but a disaster for the citizens. First of all, taxpayers have no reason to pay for an organization dedicated to suppressing free speech. We have no way of knowing the exact size of this force, but we can be certain that the State is quite generous.

Politically, the Internet Police lacks legitimacy. On the one hand, without representational authorization, the establishment of the force is illegal. On the other hand, the force has become a dedicated organization for violating citizens’ right of free speech. The violation of China’s Constitution is more blatant in the case of the Internet Police than that of Custody and Repatriation, which of course should have already been abolished. Unfortunately, there is very little discussion on abolishing the Internet Police so far.

(Note: Custody and Repatriation refers to the practice of arresting citizens found outside of their home districts without government-issued travel permits. It is estimated that as many as two million people may be in detention for this cause.)

In 2001, we wrote and signed “The Declaration of Net Citizens’ Rights,” which became well known and influential. Regrettably, the declaration did not lead to any legal document. The declaration forced some Beijing authorities to give compromising interpretations of two repressive new laws, but achieved nothing else. Since then numerous police actions have destroyed freedom of speech on the Chinese Internet. These police actions and the recent “Internet Massacre” show that defending Internet freedom and ultimately abolishing the Internet Police is a long-term human rights objective.

It Is Difficult for a Nation Without Spiritual Aspirations to Get Rid of Dictatorship

We must not forget that the victims of this series of Internet persecutions such as Liu Di, Yang Zili and others are still suffering in their prison cells. The surviving cultural web sites have adopted policies of self-preservation by avoiding controversies, which I cannot criticize harshly. The problem is that some smart survivors are demonstrating their own wisdom and maturity by congratulating themselves and laughing at the suffering victims. On these sites we can still see the screams of new leftists, sighs from postmodernists, pornographic jokes, and attacks on freedom. These websites are likely surviving as a government-tolerated showcase for “freedom of speech” under the political terror, thoroughly disguised. Not surprisingly, the subjects ruled by vicious men seldom have compassion or a sense of shame.

The Internet Police system is a product of Jiang Zemin regime, the “stability” era. Related to the formation of the Internet police is the establishment of the censor system, staffed by retired Maoist propagandists who can continue their dirty work because of the authorities’ fear of free speech. Both systems are products of the post-1989 era.

Without any doubt, some day people will talk about these systems in the same light that they now discuss the Dongchang Chinese Secret Police, the KGB, and Josef Goebel.

Our unique shame, however, is that we are still living under these systems while the Dongchang Chinese Secret Police, the KGB, and Goebel are universally despised and ridiculed. Sadly these systems are not yet subjects of our historical research, but our life.

The old era is slipping away and cannot possibly be kept alive by worshipping dead rulers. Granted, it is still very difficult to say goodbye to the past when those in power and those who have benefited are colluding and cooperating to preserve the status quo. Our nation has very little spiritual aspiration left after thousands of years of rule by pragmatism.

The lack of spiritual aspiration makes it hard to do away with these powerful dictators with their powerbase of material worship, because under the terror of force, spiritual courage and reasoning are the only hope.

Not much hope should be placed on market reforms, because private capitalists and dictators will unite in the common cause of self-preservation when under siege, as the Nazi regime has clearly demonstrated. Despite all this, I believe in the power of God. Because of the insuppressible and inalienable universal human spirit, there is never any everlasting power in this world.

© Copyright 2002-2007 AFAR