About once a month executives from China’s Internet news sites gather in a small meeting room on the first floor of Beijing’s Information Office, where a government official tells them what not to report. China’s Internet giants all send representatives, as does the China branch of one of America’s best known icons: Yahoo. The visitors take notes and ask few questions.
On especially sensitive days, the speaker is the office’s director, Wang Hui, a woman whom an attendee of the meetings describes as pleasant and informal, with her hair cut short in the classic style of a Chinese bureaucrat. “Her demeanor is friendly,” says the attendee, who requested anonymity because describing the meetings could lead to arrest. “We have known each other for a long time, and our companies are very cooperative.”
The meetings are part of a system of Internet censorship that combines technological filters, human monitors and threats of detention to systematically suppress political speech.