July 02, 2009 08:13
Many Internet users in China are celebrating after Beijing delayed implementing its order that Internet-blocking software be installed in all new computers.
News of the delay turned a scheduled Internet boycott into an all-day celebration on Wednesday. Hundreds of opponents of the plan flowed in and out of a tucked-away restaurant in Beijing's Caochangdi art district.
The well-known artist and activist Ai Weiwei organized the event. Dressed in neon pink, he walks around posing for photographs and signing T-shirts with slogans protesting the plan. Ai had proposed a 24-hour Internet boycott for Wednesday, the day the plan was to go into effect, and used online tools such as Twitter to invite people to gather at the restaurant near his home. "It's just to let people know what our attitude is towards this kind of censorship," Ai said.
By lunchtime the party already had over 200 guests enjoying free food and alcohol. Ai says he expects over 1,000 people from all over China to join the party before the day is over. "They traveled to Beijing many of them," Ai said. "The guy on the phone there is from Hangzhou, some people are from the northeast, some are from different provinces. I was so surprised. Some are fans of mine, some are Internet activists, [and] some are human rights activists."
Last month, the government said that all new computers sold in China would have to have Internet-blocking software installed. The government said the software, called the Green Dam Youth Escort program, would protect young Internet users from pornography, but many critics say it also would have blocked access to Web sites containing politically sensitive information or allowed the government to track what people view on the Internet.
Ai says citizen protests may have influenced China's decision to delay the software's implementation, but also says the government faces greater pressure than activists.
For weeks, foreign officials and industry groups expressed opposition to the Green Dam software, for political, commercial and technical reasons. Twenty-two chambers of commerce and trade groups asked Premier Wen Jiabao not to go through with the plan. Computer-makers Dell and Hewlett-Packard said they might complain to the World Trade Organization.
Many of these groups welcomed the implementation delay. The American Chamber of Commerce in China called it a "positive development" for Chinese consumers, the government and the business community.
While partygoers in Beijing say the delay is positive, many do not believe it will be permanent. Miao Shiming attended Wednesday's party after reading about it online. He thinks the government will go forward with Green Dam, since it has already invested money in it.
Miao says he believes China will implement the Green Dam requirement when there is less attention focused on the issue.
But for the rest of the day at least, Chinese netizens celebrate their victory.
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