In the lead up to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China this coming autumn, there have been a number of crackdowns in cyber space. These crackdowns include removing apps from the Apple Store, banning certain images, creating strict guidelines on how to refer to sensitive topics, and blocking specific words from WeChat, a popular Chinese chat app. While these measures show how much control the party and state hold over Chinese citizens and companies operating within China’s borders, further preventing the flow of information shows that the Community Party of China (CCP) understands—and fears—the power of a citizenry with access to uncensored information.
In 1997, China adopted new measures to its criminal law (Articles 285, 286, and 287) that set out to codify what Chinese citizens were forbidden from doing on the internet. These articles have been amended several times since their inception 20 years ago to fit with the times. The CCP uses these provisions to rationalize its massive restrictions to information online.
The now (in)famous “Great Firewall” was eventually created as a mechanism to restrict access or censor information that the CCP deems sensitive or inappropriate—like the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989. The system also blocks thousands of websites, Google searches, and IP addresses.