To Be, or Not To Be Disconnected?

The New York Times’ recent article ‘China Tightens Censorship of Electronic Communications’, which was featured on CDT, led with a dramatic anecdote:

A Beijing entrepreneur, discussing restaurant choices with his fiancée over their cellphones last week, quoted Queen Gertrude’s response to Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” The second time he said the word “protest,” her phone cut off.

The stringently empirical Adam Minter at Shanghai Scrap attempted to reproduce the Times’ findings:

METHODS: The staff prepared three phrases. A) Queen Gertrude’s response to Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks;” b) “I like Bob Dylan’s protest songs, the most;” and c) “PROTEST PROTEST PROTEST!” The staff also prepared a list of five individuals with phones in China. They are a) a foreign Shanghai entrepreneur; b) a Shanghai school teacher; c) a Beijing-based foreign correspondent; d) a Beijing-based scrap metal entrepreneur; e) a Foshan-based scrap metal entrepreneur. Each individual was called from a Shanghai phone line, and asked to listen to the three phrases, repeated twice.

RESULTS: In all five cases, the connection was sustained and the staff was subjected to varying degrees of bewildered responses …

Studies by Shanghaiist’s Kenneth Tan – and several Shanghaiist readers – similarly failed to produce a disconnection.

Ananth Krishnan, Beijing-based correspondent for The Hindu, and Louisa Lim of NPR, also tested the phone lines and failed to get cut off.

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