Can we boycott MSN and Yahoo for helping the Chinese regime continue its ruthless struggle to cling to power?

Essay by Keir January 2006

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My students here in Beijing can find what they want on the Internet: fashion, business, travel, entertainment, romance. Anything, that is, except democracy, Tiananmen, Taiwan, human rights, Tibet, Wikipedia and hundreds of other subjects.

If my students who the IB sees fit to offer its diploma programme in a fascist regime were to search the Internet for banned words they would risk being arrested, tried and imprisoned for up to 10 years on charges of subversion, revealing state secrets or spreading propaganda injurious to the state.

To become more repressive in preventing its people from truly learning instead of simply staying home and watching the garbage the communists permit on the TV screens, the regime relies on technology from the West. The consequences have already been discussed in previous blogs. For this reason Bloomberg columnist William Pesek Jr. asks Chinese people to boycott MSN/Yahoo. He asserts that Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and many others are actually helping to institutionalise and legitimise the integration of censorship into the global IT business model.

This is all futile, however. China is simply going to find it harder and more difficult to police fast-changing technologies and fast-learning bloggers. All that Chinese users will no doubt remember years from now is how the biggest and most respected names in technology once helped keep them down. Along with helping create an d police a Great Chinese firewall, they may hopefully be creating insurmountable barriers between themselves and their future users.