Outrunning China’s Web Cops – Ben Elgin

From BusinessWeek Online: Net-savvy outfits are finding ways to let citizens see banned sites

From an undisclosed location in North Carolina, Bill Xia is fighting a lonely war against China’s censors. From morning till well into the night, the Chinese native plays a cat-and-mouse game, exploiting openings in Beijing’s formidable Internet firewall and trying to keep ahead of the cybercops who patrol the Web 24-7 and have an uncanny ability to plug holes as quickly as Xia finds them. A member of the banned Chinese sect Falun Gong, Xia is so fearful that Beijing will persecute his family back in China, that he refused to be photographed for this story, reveal where exactly he was born, or even provide his age beyond saying he’s in his 30s.

Xia is part of a small group of Chinese expatriates who are making a modest living helping Web surfers back home get the information their government would rather they not see. Chinese citizens hoping to read about the latest crackdown on, say, Falun Gong or the most recent peasant rebellion in the provinces can use technology provided by Xia’s Dynamic Internet Technology Inc. to mask their travels to forbidden Web sites.

Voice of America (VOA) and human rights organizations also are paying DIT to help evade the censors and get their message out to the Chinese masses. Says Xiao Qiang, who teaches journalism at the University of California at Berkeley and runs the China Internet Project: “These tools have a critical impact because the people using them are journalists, writers, and opinion leaders.”


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