Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ryan Pyle Blog: Google Gives Us Hope


Ai Wei Wei is a man who isn't afraid to speak his mind. He was once praised by the Chinese central government, for helping design the famed Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium, and not long afterwards was being beat up in a hotel room in Chengdu by a bunch of thugs as he wanted to learn more about the collapsed schools during the Sichuan Earthquake.

For who ever thinks that Ai Wei Wei might be a careless activist, think again. He is very careful with his words and his articles/options are always very well written and very well thought out. Which is why I feel anytime he is published in the English language media it's important to read his words and debate his point of view; as is common in any open society where the freedom of speech and of ideas are protected.

Pay special attention to his last paragraph. It's a stunner.

Original Story LINK
Copywrite Wall Street Journal
Google Gives Us Hope
If China can remain powerful though it limits freedom of speech, what kind of monster will it become?

China may have become the second-biggest economy in the world, but its political system remains stuck in the early 20th century. Even as Chinese people's horizons are broadening, the government clings to a one-party ideology that is hostile to personal freedom. Technology is making possible greater expression and political participation, but that has only prompted the authorities to work harder to stifle these impulses.

All this makes Google's decision to stop censoring to protect its China operations especially significant. First, it is encouraging for the Chinese people to see that a leading Internet company recognizes that censorship is a violation of basic human rights and values. Such controls damage the core ethos underpinning the Internet.

To stand up and speak out in a society in which those values are under constant attack requires courage and deserves moral support. Politicians and enterprises should not trade those basic rights for profits, because any short-term deal will only lead to long-term losses.

In several cases the judicial system has used information from an accused person's email as evidence of attempting to overthrow the government. This is a clear case showing how an authoritarian state can use technology not to benefit social life and improve political participation, but rather to violate the privacy of individuals and control their thinking, communication and expression.

From last October, I found that two of my Gmail accounts were being hacked by unknown intruders, and my Gmail messages were being automatically transferred to an unknown address. Other activists have reported the same intrusions to their Gmail accounts.

Most discouraging to those of us who are fighting for increased freedom is the tendency for developed nations to lower the bar to please China. They make excuses not to concern themselves with violations of human rights. To espouse universal values and then blind oneself to China's active hostility to those values is irresponsible and naïve.

When American officials come to China with a pretty smile and the soft tone of a so-called "friendly gesture," this only tells us how fragile and vulnerable these moral standards can be. It makes the people still in the struggle feel disappointed.

In recent months China has tightened its censorship over every medium, from the Internet to the mainstream media to instant messaging over mobile phones. This is the mark of a government that has lost confidence in its own ideology and is nervous about its power to control its own people. Stopping the free exchange of information ultimately hampers economic growth and opportunity, which is the Chinese government's main claim to legitimacy. The question then is how a state based on limiting information flows and freedom of speech can remain powerful. And if it can, what kind of monster it will become.

Mr. Ai is a Beijing-based artist and activist.

Ryan Pyle

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This is Ryan Pyle. I appreciate you adding a comment to my blog and I hope that this space has offered you something useful and interesting. I look forward to staying in touch and I'm glad you took the time to comment.

Ryan Pyle