China's Internet Control (Photo : Getty Images)
China's parliament session this year, which closed on Wednesday, March 8, will be remembered best for imposing a stricter Internet control policy on the country's 720 million Internet users, activists told RFA.
The accounts of outspoken users of the Chinese popular chat network QQ were shut down in early March and their new accounts were deleted as soon as they were set up, Xu Lin, a writer based in Guangzhou said.
"My QQ has been shut down twice in recent days," Xu said. "The first time, they shut down three QQ accounts of mine at the same time, all of which had been in continuous use."
"I applied for another . . . but that was deleted a couple of days ago after I wrote a song and posted it on [QQ's] Shuoshuo space," Xu added.
The Internet was also locked down during the duration of the National People's Congress annual session in Beijing, from March 5 to 15, some Chinese netizens complained.
"They delete my account. I set up a new account, and so it goes on. Resistance is futile," said one Sina Weibo user.
Several million social media accounts were also reportedly shut down during the NPC session, Pan Lu, a rights activist, told RFA.
"As soon as the parliamentary sessions started, there was a social media crackdown on anything to do with human rights, democracy or constitutional politics," Pan said.
"Large numbers of accounts and groups on QQ and WeChat were shut down, in a mass cleansing of the system through deletion. I heard that several million accounts were closed," Pan added.
In Sichuan, Internet access had been blocked for days, according to Huang Xiaomin, another rights activist.
"Local officials are under huge pressure from Beijing and they really go to town on the controls on the internet," Huang Xiaomin said. "They are very, very nervous, and super-sensitive."
Control on parliamentarians
Some Chinese parliamentarians also complained of the government's tight control on netizens through the use of the system of filters, blocks and human censorship also called as the Great Firewall.
But when Luo Fuhe, vice-chairman of the NPC's advisory body, asked for access to non-political overseas content, the Party's propaganda ministry responded with a directive to media editors.
"All websites, please find and delete reports and posts on Luo Fuhe's 'Proposal to Improve and Increase Speed of Access to Foreign Websites' as soon as possible," the March 4 directive said.
Punished for typo error
In Henan, two senior editors and a journalist at the Puyang Daily News were disciplined after a character was deleted from Premier Li Keqiang's name in the headline.
Yang Dengfeng, the sub-editor was fined 200 yuan ( $29), while his team leader was charged with 1,000 yuan ($145) and was ordered to write a self-criticism.
According to reports, Zhang Guang, the editor in chief, and Meng Jin, the editorial board president, were either suspended or dismissed.
A veteran journalist who refused to be named said that the typo error should be a minor thing, but in the present political climate, the incident was blown out of proportion.
"In today's climate, you'd be lucky not to get bumped off for this sort of thing," the journalist said. "It shows that local officials are . . . being very quick to report things like this to higher levels of government."