31 January 2006

 

BBC’s Bill Thompson plays Devil’s advocate for Google

Lately I've been thinking that our blog could be used more effectively as a platform for the discussion of important issues and sharing ideas, as well as reporting our news, and just recently I've been given the perfect chance to start such a debate.

Bill Thompson, technology critic for the BBC, has given his opinion on Google's launch of the self-censored google.cn in an article entitled Why Google in China makes sense. I think it goes without saying that this is hardly a scathing response to the recent move by the internet giant which he says "should be supported for its brave decision". I'm sorry Bill, but an internet activist who puts his life on the line in China is brave, a monk who risks torture to denounce the Dalai Lama in a Tibetan monastery is brave, an international corporation that rejects its principles in order to please a totalitarian dictatorship and make a quick buck is just plain cowardly.

Amongst his arguments in favour of Google is the fact that other companies have launched self-censored search engines in order to break into the Chinese market with little response from the western media. Firstly, the fact that Yahoo and MSN have also decided to censor their searches in order to appease the Chinese government is absolutely no justification for Google doing it and is equally deplorable. Secondly, the media's lack of response to these previous moves can hardly be considered an endorsement of Yahoo et al.

Mr Thompson then goes on to compare Google's censorship in China to that of search engine providers in Europe and North America, pointing out that we are not informed when we are denied access to a website due to its content, where as Chinese Google users will be. But how on earth can you compare blocking child pornography in the UK to denying access to pro-democracy websites in China? One is to prevent child abuse, the other to keep an oppressive dictatorship in power. And as one of my colleagues on Tibet Will Be Free sarcastically pointed out "I'm sure a Tibetan at an internet cafe in Lhasa with government printed signs reading "Do not use Internet for any political or other unintelligent purposes" doesn't know that the Chinese Communist Party doesn't want them reading information on Tibetan independence...".

Finally, he ends with the point: "Constructive engagement in a way that respects but also challenges local law seems a far better option [than a technological blockade], and that, for all its risks, is what Google is attempting to do". Whilst I agree that constructive engagement is a good way to go on this issue, I don't think this is how Google's actions can be described. To begin with, Google's only "challenge" to this incredibly unjust "local law" seems to be telling Chinese internet users what they already know (i.e. that they're not allowed to access 'politically sensitive' material), not exactly daring. The word "constructive" would also imply that some positive change will come as a result of this, but what incentive is there for change, especially when Google seem to be endorsing the government's internet censorship in China?

There is one thing that Bill Thompson can be thanked for, there is a great picture of SFT veteran Thupten Tsering at the protest outside Google HQ in his article. Thanks to Thupten's T-shirt, I think we may have the first appearance of the SFT logo on the BBC, even if it is a bit obscured.

If you would like to voice your opinion on this article or the launch of google.cn please post a comment.

28 January 2006

 

Edinburgh Tenzin Delek Rinpoche action


On the 26th of January, to conicide with the international day of action for Tenzin Delek Rinpoche we spent the morning (from 8.30am!) shuttle-running people with letters asking for the release of TDR to the consulate in Edinburgh. After the 3rd group, the man behind the desk was wondering what was up and thus ensued a 20min, very civil, converstaion about Tibet and China and opposing views. We're really chuffed, it all seemed to go very well. And excitingly he told us that people had been calling in about Tenzin totally seperate from us. Always encouraging when there's support from others close by!
Check out the photo of some of the girls with english and chinese language letters.

26 January 2006

 

Google sells out to China

It emerged yesterday (January 25th) that Google are to launch a self-censored version of their search engine in order to break into the Chinese market. The new website, google.cn, will block access to websites relating to Tibet, Taiwan, Falun Gong, democracy and even the BBC, to kowtow to the Chinese governments rules on internet censorship.

This flies in the face of their motto "Do No Evil" as Google are not simply following the law of the land, they are actively collaborating with an oppressive regime in blinding its own citizens to any criticism that may lead to the spread of freedom and democracy. Google have attempted to defend their decision by saying that providing a censored service is better then providing no service at all: "While removing search results is inconsistent with Google's mission, providing no information... is more inconsistent with our mission". But the lesser of two evils is still evil. By censoring web searches Google is not simply depriving people of information, it is helping to perpetuate China's propaganda on Tibet and other issues by denying Chinese citizens access to any counterpoint, or even the simple truth.

Ever since China opened up to foreigners a couple of decades ago Western governments have been under the impression that the best way to bring freedom and democracy to China is through business and economic growth. But here, and not for the first time, we can see that foreign business is actually helping to support the Chinese government in the oppression of its people. Don't get me wrong, I know Google is a business and has no responsibility to support political dissent in China, but it certainly shouldn't be supporting the violation of the basic human right to free speech.

Read more about this on the Guardian website here and here and on the BBC website here and here. You can also watch a news clip here and check out the SFT International blog for news on a protest outside Google headquarters in California.

24 January 2006

 

Bristol host TIBET BLUES party on Feb 3rd

Dear SFT members and supporters,

On Friday, February 3rd Bristol Coalition for Tibet will be hosting "TIBET BLUES", a spanking great night on board HMS Thekla, moored in Bristol’s mud docks (that’s right… a party on a boat!). There will be fantastic music, both home grown and Tibetan, from blues to world beats through hiphop and other lands on the way.
CHRIS JAGGER + band with some zydeco, country + blues
LOTEN NAMBLING is here with Tibetan sounds,
EMUNAH hitting out world beats and hiphop
PLUS DJ WOODERS, AMEN HOMES and BASS BINGE

All profits go to JINPA PROJECTS, dedicated to preserving the fragile Tibetan culture in Yushu.

FRIDAY FEB 3RD AT THEKLA, EAST MUD DOCK, BRISTOL 9PM – Late
Accommodation might even be possible.

For more information email:
coalitionfortibet@hotmail.com or lf3208@bris.ac.uk
or ring: 07780576558

For more information on Jinpa projects, visit:
http://www.jinpa.org/

Travel:
1 mile from Temple Meads Train Station - map

Hope to see some of you there,

Bristol Coalition For Tibet

21 January 2006

 

SFT UK Conference!

SFT UK's training conference is now confirmed for Saturday 11 Feb at SOAS, London. For a bargain £10, the conference offers heaps of campaigning training, inspirational speakers, free lunch, free accomodation and the Tibetan Youth UK after-party.
Click here for more details.

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