Is Switzerland too sexy for the Chinese?

Published on SwissInfo.ch, Alain Arnaud, July 2, 2009.

Chinese internet users can continue to ogle the Aletsch glacier and Simmental cows, after Beijing shelved plans for compulsory computer filtering software.
Readers there can also go on visiting the Chinese-language version of swissinfo.ch and see all its pictures without waiting interminably for the site to upload.

Beijing is seeking to bundle Green Dam Youth Escort software with all computers sold in China. The content-control programme is supposed to block porn sites, but computer-security experts argue it uses code banned by companies like Microsoft because it allows a computer to be hacked. 

The programme also blocks thousands of innocent pages, including MySwitzerland.com, the official site of the Swiss tourism organisation with its pictures of glaciers and cows. Other indisputably pornographic sites get through …

… Politics, not pornography:

Beijing lawyer and human rights activist, Li Fangping, has lodged a legal petition to contest the Green Dam project. Having tested the software, he says its aim is to block political sites rather than pornographic ones.

“The number of web users interested in politics is growing, and it is becoming easier and easier for them to express their views and put pressure on the government to demand reform,” he told swissinfo.ch.

“Internet presents a fatal challenge to a despotic party,” says Zhang Boshu, professor of political philosophy at Beijing’s Academy of Social Science, who uses the net to spread his ideas.

“My writings cannot be published in China, and there is no way I could ever speak on the official media. But I still manage to reach large numbers of readers. This is a recent development, which we couldn’t have imagined five years ago, and which the authorities will not be able to stop.”

Ahead of the game:

The fact is, in China, surfers are ahead of the authorities. As a blogger with the username Jason NG puts it: “Anyone who wants to know has ways to get over the barriers if they want to. They have the tools to access sensitive data. Green Dam won’t make any difference.”

In his post for July 1 Jason NG welcomed the postponement of the plan. “This is a victory for public opinion. Green Dam will quickly be forgotten… Despite appearances, we have a good government which listens to its citizens.”

Meanwhile, Swiss Tourism will certainly be relieved that the beauties of Switzerland can continue to lure the Chinese. (full text).

(Alain Arnaud in Beijing, swissinfo.ch, adapted from French by Julia Slater and Tim Neville).

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