Austin Ramzy explains why blocking YouTube undermines the Chinese government’s claim that the video of Chinese policemen beating Tibetan detainees after the March 2008 Lhasa riots is faked. From The China Blog at Time.com:
[…]the nature of the Internet has changed. The importance of photo, video and blog hosting sites has grown dramatically. While we in the mainstream media like to consider ourselves indispensable, the fact is that we are ultimately just news. Blocking YouTube, Flickr or WordPress not only restricts access to videos, photos and blog posts related to specific news events, it also impedes people trying to view the latest Kanye West video, pictures of their friend’s ski trip or their favorite blog on Korean pop stars. In other words, it screws with a whole bunch of folks’ programs.
And lastly, what’s blocked/what’s not is an easily reported story for people writing from China. You don’t have to leave your desk or even pick up the phone. It’s all there on your computer screen. The censors rarely explain their motivation, leaving everyone free to hypothesize. That’s all fat on the fryer.
But I sense this shift in how people cover the Internet in China may be lost on the government. Last weekend individual YouTube pages carrying the Tibet video were blocked here, which wasn’t a much of a story. Now the entire site is blocked, and the censorship and the Tibet video itself have all become subjects of international interest. Beijing says the video is faked and that it’s not afraid of the Internet. But blocking YouTube makes the very opposite statement. If Beijing has proof the video is fake, then detailing that would be far more devastating to the overseas Tibetans’ assertions than blocking YouTube. But for now it’s relying on equally fuzzy claims, further ensuring this story won’t go away.
See also CDT’s previous post on Voice of America’s graphic video which claims to show Chinese police beating bound Tibetan protestors last March.