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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

More Equivocations from Kristof

For the third column on China in a row, Nicholas Kristof has disappointed me. I can't say that I understand where the force is in Kristof's latest glass-is-half-full column on China. Kristof, a man with a vocal propensity for moral clarity, has again ho'ed and hummed over the repression of free speech in China.

The authorities have arrested a growing number of Web dissidents. But there just aren't enough police to control the Internet, and when sites are banned, Chinese get around them with proxy servers.

Kristof rightly thinks the growing number of blogs that critique the Chinese government and Communist Party represents progress towards greater access to information. But what troubles me is Kristof's blithe acceptance of the fact that people in China are being regularly arrested for their thoughts and beliefs. Kristof barely bats an eye when one of his own posts on a Chinese blog calling for free elections is censored:

I tried my own experiment, posting comments on Internet chat rooms. In a Chinese-language chat room on Sohu.com, I called for multiparty elections and said, "If Chinese on the other side of the Taiwan Strait can choose their leaders, why can't we choose our leaders?" That went on the site automatically, like all other messages. But after 10 minutes, the censor spotted it and removed it.

Then I toned it down: "Under the Communist Party's great leadership, China has changed tremendously. I wonder if in 20 years the party will introduce competing parties, because that could benefit us greatly." That stayed up for all to see, even though any Chinese would read it as an implicit call for a multiparty system.

I just don't understand how a columnist for the NY Times can take being censored so lightly. He admits journalists are being jailed for their writings, he has his own opinions deleted from a Chinese website, and yet he is comfortable saying things are getting better? It's absurd and it's irresponsible because it promotes passivism in the face of oppression. If Kristof cares so much about the future of free speech in China, he would be better served not to point out to the Chinese government that they shouldn't be giving people broadband access if they don't want dissent.

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