Disasters strike one after another. Shortly after I read from the Time China Blog an update about the saga surrounding the imminent closure of the Open Constitution Initiative, I received a tip from a reader, who told me that the famous academic web portal TECN.CN might have been closed down as well. The two incidents seem to be related. The following is a translation of a report from CANYU.ORG about this breaking news:
TECN.CN, a famous China-based online academic forum, has been inaccessible since 18 July 2009. Insiders said the web portal has been closed down.
The closing down of TECN demonstrates that the Chinese Government is conducting a systematic and coordinated purge against websites with intellectual and social content. It is doubtful if the closing down of TECN is related to the Urumqi riot. The riot had already led to the blocking of Facebook, the closing down of Fanfou and the cutting off of Internet services to the entire Urumqi city. However, commentators are of the opinion that the closure of TECN may have been triggered by another event in which the Open Constitution Initiative (OCI), a well-known NGO, is facing closure due to huge financial penalties and subsequent property confiscation imposed on the organisation. OCI’s founders are reputable legal scholars who are influential both among academics and legal professionals in China. The organisation became well known among netizens due to its involvement in the high profile Deng Yujiao trial. The financial penalty imposed on OCI, which had crippled the organisation, has been met with strong criticism on the Internet. So it is not at all surprising if the purge of TECN is an attempt to stop the web portal from becoming a platform for the voices of dissent.
Since its inauguration in April 2006, TECN ( www.tecn.cn ) has established itself as a platform for lifelong learning and independent thinking. The web portal consistently upholds its mission of “promoting personal development in the spirit of a community”. Its domain name TECN is an acronym for Training-Education-China. The name highlights the web portal’s aspiration of becoming a pioneer in fostering a learning community among Chinese speakers. Since its inception, the web portal has enjoyed the patronage of famous scholars from a variety of humanities disciplines. Hundreds of senior scholars have set up their websites at TECN. As a result, TECN has become one of the few innovative academic forums that have continuously enjoyed high traffic. Because of that, the web portal has been the target of close monitoring and was recently required to go through a restructuring.
In China, more and more websites that have been identified as “sensitive in content” are meeting the fate of a complete ban. Shortly after the launch of Charter 08, popular web portals such as Legal World (Fa Tianxia) and Bullog.cn were forced into closure. Now it looks as if both Fanfou and TECN have been closed down too. Active websites such as these are fast becoming victims of Chinese authorities’ heavy-handed tactics in their desperate attempts to “maintain stability”. In the course of doing so, they make no apology about openly violating Chinese people’s constitutional rights to freedom of speech.