Among the developed world, China has long been regarded as enforcing some of the strictest rules on Internet access. Now, government advisers, deputies, delegates and lawmakers are calling on regulators to ease restrictions.
Even those who agree with China’s basis to censor politically sensitive information are now arguing that China’s digital nets are spreading too far and beginning to have a detrimental impact on commerce, academia, and even medical advancements for the country.
Not surprisingly, their voices are not necessarily being circulated around.
During the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an officially sanctioned non-communist political party the China Association for Promoting Democracy told reporters it would be issuing an anti-censorship proposal. This document would aim to only ease access for non-politically-sensitive academic websites.
“It is not normal when quite a number of researchers have to purchase software that helps them bypass the country’s firewalls in order to complete their scientific research,” said Luo Fuhe, the party’s executive vice-chairman.
Online reports of his proposal were later removed from major news sites and social media.
Biologist Luo Yongzhang, a cancer expert at Tsinghua University, says censorship of Google is making his work particularly difficult.
Caroline Cheng Yi, a political adviser and renowned sculptor, argues that censorship of sites like Google, Facebook and even Pinterest impedes small businesses’ capacity to market goods and services.
“I use Facebook to promote Chinese ceramics to the world,” she said. “But after it was banned, I could only use it when I returned to Hong Kong, or use a VPN (virtual private network), which is not that stable. China is losing many opportunities without social media like Facebook.”
She warns that although sites like these are off limits to common folk, governmental bodies can maintain such accounts to promote their own views and developments, which may lead to mass resentment down the road.
“Xi Jinping has reiterated many times that China must insist on ‘opening up’ and welcome the Internet age, but when he’s talking about all this, the country’s [censorship] is becoming more and more like that of North Korea,” Cheng said.