A new legislation will give local authorities in Guangdong Province more power to control the use of computer information systems during the outbreak of an incident. It will also prevent the leaking of news from endangering national security, public safety and social stability. The new amendment to the “Provincial Computer Information Systems Security Protection Regulations” will allow local police and officials in charge of national security to shut down the operations of Internet services, backup systems and computer workstations for up to 24 hours. This new legislation, passed last Thursday, will also put in place a new classification system. Under this system, all information networks in Guangdong Province will be grouped under five categories to determine the extent to which this new legislation will apply.
A reporter from Radio Free Asian’s Cantonese Service attempted to contact the Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department for further information. However, a spokes person from the Department declined to give more details about the content of the new regulations or to comment on when the new regulations will come into effect.
The new legislation serves a different function to the Golden Shield Project, or better known as the Great Firewall of China. The Great Firewall is set up to censor incoming information. This legislation, however, as described by Wang Qi from 64tianwang.com, is designed to block the dissemination of news, particularly those in relation to social unrest. Blocking news about social unrest is seen as a crucial step in suppressing the fast spreading Rights Defending (weiquan) Movements in that province.
Guangdong Province seems to be a hotbed for Rights Defending Movements in the past two years. Disputes over land confiscation and work condition had resulted in numerous cases of strikes, demonstrations and road blockages. Local mass media will sometimes refrain from reporting these incidents due to pressure from the Government. However, in most cases news and photographs still found their ways to the World Wide Web. Once on the Web, the information will usually be picked up by overseas broadcasters.
Many commentators, including Wang Qi and human rights activist Hu Jia, have expressed their grave concerns about this practice of shutting down computer networks as a way to stop news from spreading. The SARS outbreak in 2002 – 2003 had been exacerbated to a pandemic due to the Chinese Government’s attempt to cover up news about the spreading of the illness. The pandemic resulted in more than 8,000 known cases of infection and over 700 deaths worldwide.
Information for this post is taken from these two sources: