Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Wall

My last visit to the Berlin Wall was in 1998 while sections of the wall was still standing and Checkpoint Charlie was a tourist attraction. Today, as the west celebrates the 20th aniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Chinese netizens are joking about the Great Firewall of China (or GFW for short). I used to be sceptical about censorship in China - sure they block a few sites, but who cares? The Chinese can still visit majority of the websites, right? My view changed during my visit to China last month and personal experience of the wrath of the GFW.

I first tried to access my blogger site and my picasa photo albums in an internet cafe in Tianjin. It turned out that they were not accessible. In fact, the whole was inaccessible! I thought this might be unique to that internet cafe, or Tianjin city. But I was wrong.

After a 25-hour train ride, I arrived in the southern city of GuangZhou. I experienced the same problems! People told me that even for unblocked sites, certain contents (i.e. parts of the web page) of those sites can still be blocked.

Now I understand why my blogger site has so few hits from China. The few red dots shown on the ClustrMaps are probably the result of automated search engines on the outside of the GFW.

Curiously, MSN sites (blog, photos, file sharing, etc.) are not blocked by the GFW. Maybe Microsoft had better political connections than Google. Now I have to create new photo albums on MSN just for the Chinese!