Xiao Qiang (萧强): Han Han (韩寒), Google and the Great Firewall

My commentary in the Guardian:

Han Han is a 28-year-old bestselling author, racing driver and blogger who is a star of Chinese cyberspace. He is also one of the most outspoken critics of government censorship, and his blogposts are often deleted by censors. Nevertheless, his main blog has over 300m hits. In an online poll Han Han ran recently on his blog about a corrupt official, 210,000 people voted. Yet it is not just Han Han’s words that are so influential, but the internet technologies – searches, file-sharing, RSS, blogging, microblogging, image and video-sharing, social networking, etc – that allow them to spread freely, despite government censorship.

… Google’s decision to leave China rather than abide by intrusive government policies effectively marks the beginning of a cyberworld divided into the internet and the “Chinternet”, with the great firewall marking the boundary. Several top global websites, including Google, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, as well as thousands of other websites, are no longer easily accessible.

But just as Google’s China story is not yet over, the China chapter of the internet story is just beginning. The transformative power of a global, open and participatory communications network will only grow, even through the great firewall. Google already has a huge number of loyal users in China, many of whom are increasingly unhappy with internet censorship. Removal of Google’s Chinese search engine to Hong Kong will create stronger demand inside China for censorship circumvention tools. Potential retaliatory measures by the government to block other popular Google services such as Gmail, Google Docs, Google Buzz, Google Wave, and Google Talk will only heighten this demand.

As a leading technology giant with a strong commitment to internet freedom, Google has the capacity to make its services continually available to Chinese netizens. Other technology companies and governments should join in this struggle to create a single, open and free internet. The final story is written by people like Han Han, who represent the irrepressible desire for truth, dignity and freedom. This spirit is what will ultimately topple the great firewall – with the assistance of innovative and unblockable internet technologies.

Please click here to see the full text.

Update: The Translator – a volunteers based translation service has translated this article into Chinese at here.