The Chinese woman on my television appeared to be screaming abuse at the warm and fuzzy face of Stalinism, China’s Premier Hu. Hu Jintao plodded on regardless, delivering his official speech in the brilliant spring sunshine on the White House lawn. Next to him stood President George Bush, looking like he had suddenly realised he was mistakenly wearing Laura Bush’s underwear again. The CNN commentary droned on. “The Chinese won’t like this but they won’t know about it because it won’t be shown in China!” the Washington journalist said.
Wrong on two counts. Firstly, I was watching the live broadcast in China, about four hundred kilometers north west of Hong Kong. Secondly, the Chinese people don’t speak with one voice, and it certainly isn’t that of the senior bureaucrat of the capitalist, Communist Party. Chinese people have many different opinions just like Americans do. Even the Communist Party of China recognises this individuality, actively recruiting billionaire businessmen as well as the occasional worker to join its ideology challenged ranks.
But the party is still fighting a rearguard to censor international news. I couldn’t publish this blog on the mainland because blogger.com sites are usually censored there. So I am inside China writing this report on my lap top, fact checking with the BBC which streams in on broadband. Censorship isn’t stopping the flow of information to Chinese citizens. Even jailing the odd blogger hasn’t intimidated Chinese web users. Meanwhile the Chinese government is disrupting legitimate web traffic, hampering the modernisation Mr Hu says he wants.
The US Secret Service dragged the protester away. Mr Hu went off to have a nice lunch with Mr Bush. Did they talk about freedom of speech, do you think?