If not for the fact that I actually lived in China for some time, I would have no idea what censorship is like in China.
I was writing a Chinese blog in a major Taiwan blog community before I moved to live in China in January this year. To my dismay, I was not able to access my blog from China, and subsequently had to discontinue my blogging. All this was just the beginning.
Later, I found that I was not able even to access YAHOO Hong Kong. And naturally, I was not able to access online Hong Kong Chinese newspapers such as my favourite newspaper Mingpao. Nor was I able to access the online RTHK – Hong Kong’s equivalent of BBC in the UK. I was effectively being cut off from the Hong Kong media. (The reason that Hong Kong media is censored is that it has more in-dept and critical coverage of China than the state-controlled media on the Mainland China)
As a result, I started subscribing to Hong Kong’s English newspaper South China Morning Post in order to read some Hong Kong news. The censors in China don’t care online content in English. But if it is in Chinese, it will be monitored closely and in a very sophiscated way.
Coming to email, I had problem too. I could not access hotmail and gmail, but was fortunately able to access yahoo email through the English Yahoo page. Imagine I used hotmail and gmail and what a disaster it would be. Until now I am not sure why only Yahoo mail worked. Is it because yahoo has a better relationship with the Chinese government?
It must be stressed that each Chinese city has its own definition of extent of censorship. My experience refers to Hangzhou where I lived. In other cities, a different set of censored websites exist. It is a sophiscated and unpredictable system, isn’t it?
Now that I am no longer residing in China, it just feels so good to be free again.