Minnesota’s Chinese community finds near-blackout of Nobel Peace Prize on homeland websites

Many in the Twin Cities Chinese community were excited to learn from U.S. news reports that jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo had won the Nobel Peace Prize Friday, but they could find very few references to news of the award on the Chinese websites they use to keep track of news from their homeland.

And they realize that their friends and family back in China likely have little access to the news of the award.

Liu is a Chinese intellectual, writer and human rights activist who was arrested in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

The Los Angeles Times’ correspondent in Beijing noted that there was virtually no news of Liu’s Peace Prize available in China.

“The government is ashamed that one of its detainees has been given the Nobel Peace Prize,” Teng Biao, a human rights lawyer based in Beijing, told the paper. “Now they’re trying to stop the news from spreading so that they can minimize the effect.”

That was quickly noticed by local Chinese residents as they combed through their Chinese news sites. Although they don’t want to be identified because they have family still in the country, they compiled a list of the sites (all in Chinese) they checked:

A major government news site has no mention of Liu, nor any news articles about the Nobel Prize. There is one forum on the site called “Nobel,” but nothing is posted there about Liu Xiaobo.

Another government news site does mention that the government disagrees with the award.

On the Chinese search engine Baidu, Liu’s name brought up the message: “Your search is not within the scope….” And  “2010 Nobel Peace Prize” (in Chinese) turns up one link about Xiaobo, the article about the government disagreeing with the award.

This site has an article about the three people who share the Economics Nobel Prize. And there below the article is a link to a Chinese translation of a French news article that says the Peace Prize to Liu is an attempt to make an obstacle to Chinese development.

A Young People Net site also has an article about the Economic Nobel Prize winners, but no further links.

A site roughly translates as Enlighten News has a story, “Russian Wins Physics Nobel Prize.” No other Nobel news or links.

This local Chinese site has a story about the Chinese goverment cancelling a meeting with Norwegian officials about fishing agreements.

One Chinese language site did have the news that Liu won the prize, that the Chinese allowed his wife to see him, that his wife cannot have contact with anyone outside of the police, that the government moved him to a prison near Beijing to make it easier for family to visit. It also suggests that the prize might help him as the notoriety will make him a more visible inmate and he may be given more rights or privileges (such as medical attention or early release) because of it.

In January, Bill Gates told an interviewer that China’s attempts to stifle dissent on the Internet were “very limited.”

But the LA Times story notes:

It isn’t so much that the Chinese government blocks its people from knowing about the rest of the world. But when it comes to Tibet, the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and, now, the naming of Liu as a Nobel laureate, censors take pains to keep citizens from finding out what the rest of the world has to say about China.

There is, of course, a growing online community that breaks through the so-called Great Firewall to trade unprecedented reams of information about China.

But analysts say that most Chinese remain sheltered. Most never heard that Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison last year. The literature professor had helped to write Charter 08, a now-banned document demanding democratic reform.

“First, people don’t know who Liu Xiaobo is. Second, they don’t know what the 08 Charter is. Third, they don’t even know what a charter is. They don’t know, and they don’t want to know, because it’s dangerous to know,” said Zhou Xiaozheng, director of the Law of Sociology department at People’s University in Beijing.

“As soon as I hear a foreign journalist wants to know about the Nobel Peace Prize, I can sense the danger.”

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