In addition to the current bans the People’s Republic of China (PRC) imposes on their people’s internet usage (including Amnesty International USA, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, The China Times, multiple American universities, the United Nations and news sites like CNN), the China Netcasting Services Association (CNSA) is rolling out new regulations that many view as homophobic, restrictive and a threat to global citizenship.
To ensure strict adherence to “core socialist values,” the CNSA is requiring all online posts be surveyed by at least three auditors. Approval will be saved for content that will “sing the motherland, eulogize heroes, celebrate our times in song, and lead the people to hold the correct historical, ethnic, national and cultural view.” The CNSA claims items which mock government officials or showcase negative views of the nation will be edited or removed.
On the list of other content that is a cause for censorship are violence, religious cults, drug addiction, masturbation and homosexuality. Although the Chinese Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a mental illness 16 years ago, this step comes with little surprise as it aligns with the country’s strict beliefs under communism.
Students are among the population most affected by this issue. Yesheng Chen, a Grinnell College freshman who has lived in the United States for 8 years after moving from China, had a lot of insight into this matter: "They decided to put homosexuality on the level as rape. Like, what the hell? Many people’s reaction towards it is 'this is awful, what the hell is wrong with government?' and of course those posts got deleted and I can’t find them. Most young adults, teenagers and kids have respect for the LGBT community, and hope one day that government could change but that’s very unlikely and very sad."
Since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 (in which hundreds to thousands of students were massacred for protesting inflation and calling for freedom of speech), the Chinese government has shown little mercy when it comes to protecting their “people’s democratic dictatorship.” Human rights violations run rampant, and natural rights such as the right to have children, freedom of religion and free access to the Internet have been heavily restricted.
Currently, the population of China is over 1.39 billion. This one move has the ability to deny roughly 20 percent of the world’s population access to global issues, not to mention basic freedoms. Trancy Zhu, a Chinese immigrant and current senior at a California high school, states that "we [Trancy and her friends who still live in China] all share the same point of view that a government can only advance by listening to the public and making improvements based on that; blocking public opinions is a way of tyranny and does absolutely no good for the country."
This is an issue on a personal and global scale. Each person faces oppression from the authoritarian regime, but these new regulations also set up a precedent that could allow the Communist Party of China to remove a significant portion of the world from the global stage. Without access to free media, Chinese citizens could be brainwashed through government propaganda. Their ability to have options and opinions has been and will continue to be stripped from them. Chen asserts that these regulations make it difficult for citizens to get an accurate idea of what life is like outside China, and they will "start talking about how great China is [...] which is very narrow, since the government only lets the citizens see what they want; if it’s not good for the representation of the country or the government, they delete it."
For example, a simple search of the Chinese president on Weibo (China's alternative to Twitter) results in the following message: "According to the relevant laws, regulations and policies, 'xi jinping' search results are not shown." Citizens are not free to discuss their leader (or compare him to Winnie the Pooh). Chen remarks that "Xi Jinping was talking about how government shouldn’t delete people’s posts and such just few months ago. Yet, every day things are being deleted by the government."
Since China has the largest gross domestic product based on purchasing power parity, the United Nations and other organizations hesitate to accuse China of human rights violations. The Trump administration is looking to impose economic sanctions against the PRC, but only due to their ties to North Korea. If these new measures prove effective, perhaps further pushes may lead to progress within China itself.
Lead Image Credit: Dmitri Popov via Unsplash