Chinese Microbloggers Balk at Real-Name Registration Ultimatum

14 February, 2012 at 09:09 | Posted in China, human rights, IT and Media, persecution | Leave a comment
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By Jane Lin & Quincy Yu
Epoch Times Staff

The Chinese regime is determined to neuter Chinese microblogging with a March real-name registration ultimatum and stepped-up control over the Twitter-like services, known as Weibos.

The Chinese regime is determined to neuter Chinese microblogging with a March real-name registration ultimatum and stepped-up control over the Twitter-like services, known as Weibos.

With a major regime change this year, Beijing is taking pains to seal any holes in the regime’s “stability” war against the Chinese people. Microblogging, which promotes free speech, is one of the holes they worry about alot.

Beijing authorities said on Feb. 7 that users of microblog services who fail to register with their real names by March 16 will be banned from posting on those websites. Weibo accounts hosted by the four major Internet companies, Sina, Sohu, NetEase and Tencent will be subject to the new rule.

Communist Party branches will also be established at major microblog service providers to supervise and police them. But some analysts predict that the communist authorities won’t be able to achieve their security ends.

Power of Weibos

Microblogs have given Chinese people an outlet to quickly communicate information and ideas in an environment where news is shaped and censored by the regime. Since the Arab Spring freedom movement, where microblogs played a decisive factor, the Chinese regime has been paranoid about the power of Weibos.

“The reason why microblogs pose a threat [to the Chinese regime] is because this kind of social media has broken the model where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) controls society through its tight organizations,” Wen Zhao, an overseas political commentator, told The Epoch Times.

Wen said microblogs are effective because it’s an advanced technology, and the CCP’s adopting the old ways of strengthening its party organization will have very limited effect.

The people in the CCP’s ideology propaganda department are very scared, Wen said. Once they lose control during the course of political reform, they will likely be eliminated. Many of these people have been in charge of suppression and persecution and carry a lot of baggage, he said.

Hu Jun, the director of Human Rights Campaign in China, told New Tang Dynasty TV that the real-name registration will have very little effect in terms of social stability, because the CCP’s system is already at its dead end.

“With the rapid development of the Internet, increasingly more people dare to speak out. In the past, it was rare to see people protest in the streets. Now, every day, we can see them protest for their rights,” he said.

Unhappy Users

According to a report by Taiwan’s United Daily News on Feb. 6, the four major Internet companies have received notification from the Central Propaganda Department that Party officials will be stationed in their companies to directly take charge of policy guidance, decision making, and carrying out orders issued by the Central Propaganda Department, the State Council, and the Internet Information Office.

Sina already has many unhappy users since Beijing announced on Dec. 16, 2011 that new users are required to use real names for Weibo registration. Many Sina users have been complaining about their accounts or Internet service being suspended or shut down since Sina implemented the policy.

A netizen from Zhejiang Province told Sound of Hope Radio that he and his friend had repeatedly reregistered their microblog accounts but the accounts were repeatedly shut down.

“The accounts were shut off very fast, within two to three hours,” he said. “Several people have experienced this, even though the content posted was not especially sensitive. It was just personal things, but it was still shut off.”

Many high-profile microbloggers have left Sina Weibo because of censorship. Among them are Zhang Ming, a professor at the School of International Studies at Renmin University, Yu Jianrong, a professor from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and He Weifang, a professor of Law at Peking University.

After the March 16 deadline was announced, many Chinese netizens said they are worried that their right to privacy and freedom of speech will be curtailed. Some also said they will stop using Weibo.

Last year, communist state-run Xinhua reported that at one time in 2011, Sina Weibo had as many as 20 million new user registrations per month. However, new registrations have dropped to only about 3 million since Sina started enforcing the real-name registration policy on Jan. 1.

Privacy Violations

South Korea, the first country to implement real-name registration on the Internet, recently announced it plans to end it.

Professor Yu Zhishu of Seoul University published a report in April 2010 that says the number of web users and postings have decreased by two thirds during the four years the policy has been in place.

In January 2010, several non-governmental organizations and human rights groups in South Korea have raised concerns that real-name registration violates freedom of expression and Internet users’ privacy rights.

Major South Korean websites have also become hacking targets since the system was implemented. Last July hackers stole 35 million Internet users’ national identification numbers. In late November, a game company in South Korea was hacked, and 13.2 million users’ information was leaked. South Korean authorities therefore decided to abandon real-name registration.

Southern Metropolis Weekly, a liberal magazine in Guangzhou, said on Jan. 9, South Korea has provided a strong reference for other countries, which are considering implementing the system.

via Chinese Microbloggers Balk at Real-Name Registration Ultimatum | Society | China | Epoch Times

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