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Posted at 12:24 PM ET, 02/ 3/2011

In China, 'Egypt' and 'Cairo' have vanished

By Sarah Lovenheim

Imagine typing "Egypt" or "Cairo" into a Web portal's search engine and seeing no stories about the massive protests in Egypt over the past week. That's what's happening in China right now. It's a sign that the Chinese government fears the democratic movement brewing in the Middle East could cross continents and reach China.

On Sunday, "Egypt" and "Cairo" were removed from popular Chinese Web sites such as Sina.com and Sohu.com, according to Reuters. Sina.com and Sohu.com are as popular in China as Twitter is in the United States. Searches with the word 'Egypt' have produced messages saying search results could not be found.

Besides their authoritarian systems, China and Egypt share some similarities when it comes to Internet use. About one-third of each nation's population uses the Web. (That's 450 million people in China, and nearly 27 million people in Egypt.)

But one striking difference is that Internet freedom has been much greater in Egypt, and democracy advocates have made use of it. Digital platforms have emerged as safe havens in a society that otherwise restricts free speech and the media. Egyptians have had fairly open discussions online about politics and the Mubarak regime.

With the notable exception of the past week, the Egyptian government does not routinely block social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. China does. Chinese activists who want to use Twitter route their Internet connection through foreign servers.

But on top of that, China in recent days has attempted to control coverage of Egypt in the online and mainstream media. In addition to blocking the words "Egypt" and "Cairo" from search engines, the government has reportedly encouraged newspapers to base their discussions of events in Egypt on clips from the Xinhua state news agency.

The Global Times, a tabloid newspaper published by China's Communist Party, ran an editorial on its English-language Web site that said: "When it comes to political systems, the western model is only one of a few options. It takes time and effort to apply democracy to different countries, and to do so without the turmoil of revolution," the article said.

China should know better. Using the Internet to silence people, as demonstrated by Egypt's government-orchestrated Internet blackout over the weekend, can lead to chaos, violence and the overthrow of governments. The United States condemned Egypt for closing off Internet access but has not addressed China's latest move to block searches on Sina.com and Sohu.com. As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a speech last month, "countries or individuals that engage in cyber-attacks should face consequences and international condemnation." America's silence on China's Internet censorship should not be tolerated, either.

By Sarah Lovenheim  | February 3, 2011; 12:24 PM ET
Categories:  Lovenheim  
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Next: Mubarak: 'I care about Egypt'

Comments

Censored? That's strange. Yesterday I was just arguing with someome on microblog (THE famous microblog from, guess what, Sina, with url t.sina.com.cn) about whether the Chinese embassy lived up to its responsabilities helping Chinese citizens stranded in Egypt. Yesterday I was also discussing on the same multi-million users site whether the Cairo museum is in trouble. Oh and also how much of a jerk UK is for hoarding looted treasures from Egypt. And a few days ago I saw a microblog from a bunch of elementary school children describing their escape from Egypt and saying their thanks to everyone who helped. Just out of boredom I searched for Egypt, and look, someone named "Live from Egypt" came up on Sina's microblog, and all his blogs and pictures are still there. Hmm, somehow you know the Chinese are not allowed to talk about China while I, who have been on Sina and various other forums, happily talking about Egypt, didn't know that. Oh I know, I must be living on Mars, that's it!!!

Posted by: LiuXuande | February 3, 2011 2:06 PM | Report abuse

@LiuXuande:
You must be lying. When democratic media says it is censored, then it IS censored.

Posted by: xeriot | February 3, 2011 3:01 PM | Report abuse

@xeriot, assume you are being sarcastic.

It doesn't matter what kind of society you are in. If you (people like the author) don't use your brain to analyze things,you are brainwashed and freedom does you no good. All you can do is the "freedom" to regurgitate the junks the media fed you.
baidu.com is the largest search engine in China. I just did a search on Egypt and got too many hits to list them all here.

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Posted by: SpockV | February 3, 2011 4:50 PM | Report abuse

The author is a typical American who think her country is better than any country. Her ideology is superior to any idea. Her religion is more saint than any religion. She is just just an ignorant propagandist.

Posted by: luoj | February 3, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

You are lying! You are a lier!
As a reporter , you are supposed to be unbias and fair.News from Eygpt are always on the top of most media in China. Using english "Eygpt" as keyword to search chinese news, it is rediculous.

Posted by: dybnl97 | February 3, 2011 8:36 PM | Report abuse

There is such a thing as a website being able to know what region you are in. It isn't really tough to do you know.

The chinese search engines only filter if the searcher is from china. There are ways to hide where your search is originating from by using a proxy, but this also encrypts the data and the chinese firewall does not block encrypted data from a proxy server and lets it through. Too many private companies use proxies so if the firewall blocked everything it does not recognize it would literally bring their economy to a halt for a few days. It is a big hole they have no way of fixing now.

Sorry i ran off on a tangent, basically there is no way to check if it is filtered or not from the outside you idiots.

Posted by: lightgiver | February 3, 2011 8:37 PM | Report abuse

People, the author is just repeating and analyzing the story that Reuters, Al Jazeera English and many other outlets have already broken. Given the story that's reported in the world press, her analysis is fine. What the Washington Post really needs though is some actual Chinese writers who know Chinese and understand China to write about it.

Posted by: beet | February 3, 2011 8:37 PM | Report abuse

@lightgiver, it's funny to see a person with limited brain/knowledge calls others idiots. Since your brain is washed, no matter what the facts are, you won't be able to see anything else. That's the sad part of the US. People read without comprehension and they believe whatever "their media" feeds them without thinking independently . By the way, your talk about proxies show that you know little about security (:-

Posted by: SpockV | February 3, 2011 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Censored? Then why there is this sina.com Chinese link and many other Egypt news link in China (if you can read Chinese)? Western media just want to exaggerate things about China.

http://news.sina.com.cn/w/2011-02-04/080921916127.shtml

Posted by: 1bystander | February 3, 2011 10:39 PM | Report abuse

@lightgiver

Dude, I said I am actually ON the Chinese social networking website. I happen to TALK to other Chinese people inside China about Egypt. MANY millions of Chinese people happen to talk about Egypt on thie site. There is some with the ID "Live from Egypt" posting photos and text update like every hour, and any Chinese person can sift through these at his/her leisure. Somehow, you really think that you would know more about Chinese Internet than those people are always writing blogs, posting photos, and having discussions on Chinese websites. Seriously, it's okay to not know things, just don't PRETEND you know things that you don't.

Posted by: LiuXuande | February 3, 2011 11:13 PM | Report abuse

WOW!! Thats odd, because I live and work in Shanghai. and none of my news is filtered (and i'am not using a proxy or vpn, whatever you like to call it). I have been reading all the columns since day one in English. I have a question for the writer "Have you ever lived in China?" It's not as bad as you make it sound. At least there are no body scans at the airport, like in the States.

Posted by: mwildjr8681 | February 3, 2011 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Please ignore the 50 cents party.

Posted by: GrassMudHorse | February 4, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and since when is Al Jazeera (!!) "western media"? That's a new one.

Posted by: GrassMudHorse | February 4, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

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