Sunday, November 1, 2009

Back in blog land

Ah, I’m back in blog land. The Public Security Bureau (PSB) has tried and generally succeeded in shutting me off the airwaves for quite a while now. Whatever virtual network I used was quickly smote down by the powers that be in Beijing.
The tough censorship in this country is at times infuriating. Strangely I get Facebook messages in my email inbox, but that site as well as so many others (YouTube, Twitter, blogs, many news sites, etc, etc) are banned.
As a journalist operating here there are concerns. Everything I do (including email) is tapped, phone calls 'n all. To illustrate this point, I have the PSB coming to my office from time to time to catch up. The last time they came and discussed recent articles I had written that they'd read. In general they liked them and we discussed them at length. It was only after I left that I clocked the last article we'd be discussing had not even been published yet -- they could only have read it via my email!
Another example of the strange attitude towards journalists here, at a bar the other night I was chatting with a Chinese guy. He was an English teacher and asked what I did. 'I'm a journalist,' I said. Immediately, without a bat of an eyelid, he said, 'Oh, so you're a spy!' I attempted to explain the difference of Western and Chinese media. He was drinking what looked like Limeade. I said that if Beijing says his glass is actually full or red wine, then that is what Chinese journalists will diligently write to their readers where as we in the West would question whether that light green liquid really is red wine. This difference was lost on him.
Anyway, by and large I do keep off controversial subjects up here, but I do find the position of ethnic minorities in China fascinating and have written plenty on this topic and that is contentious. It sounds paranoid, but I have the British Embassy in Beijing on speed dial just in case.
So after a blackout of what seems like ages (a decade ago, no internet would have been no big deal, how times change!) I’m now foot loose and fancy free on the World Wide Web. How? Via the ingenuity of HideIPVPN, genuises who mask my online presence back to Blighty thus circumnavigating the Great Firewall of China. I salute them, thank them and will now return with haste to the wonders of the previously out of reach BBC iPlayer.