Lots of comments about the case of Mr. Zhao’s Spaces blog being shut down. I don’t have any inside information about this one, so my opinion is based on what I can read and gather from public sources. The net, however, is I think people just don’t get it.
First, China and America do not share the same constitutional rights. We have different laws. There is no constitutional right to organize against the government in China. You can get away with all sorts of things in China, but if you organize in any coordinated way to form a political opposition to the communist party, you can expect to get crushed. You don’t even have to oppose them; you just have to be threatening enough. This is why Falun Gong was crushed, and why any other large political group marching to a different drummer will get crushed.
Second, the government is still the “people’s” government. When citizens sue the government and win large settlements, the government listens and changes. When people work through the established corruption networks, the government is influenced. When peasants in Fujian riot, the government listens. Well, sometimes they shoot the peasants, but the army commander ordering the shooting loses his job.
However, when elite intellectuals employed by foreigners riot, the ruling party is not so charitable. Now, I am just pointing out that China has a different system; not trying to defend it. The important point, however, is: “What did those journalists expect?”.
The way I see it, the ruling party took power through a revolution, and they aren’t about to let any more revolutions happen. Political change in China is very gradual and controlled. If someone is trying to get a freedom of political speech law passed in China, that’s nice. But if they have foreign influences and are not working through normal party channels, I want to get as far away from them as possible. Taking on the party is sheer insanity; the party always wins. Like it or not, that’s the way it works, and the only thing I find strange is that Americans still don’t get it.
Now, as far as I can tell, Mr. Zhao already knew that spaces was censoring certain words banned in China. So he can’t be surprised that spaces complies with the Beijing laws. Why on earth would we want to ensnare ourselves in a fight with Chinese government about Chinese constitutional rights? Let them work it out through their own political process, and leave us out of it.
Also as far as I can tell, he was getting payed by New York Times. Why didn’t he run his blog on their infrastructure? If he was so confident his political commentary was innocuous, why not expose his own company to the risk? It sure is convenient that NYT can now run stories about how American companies are playing Quisling to Chinese censorship, and come off as bastions of freedom themselves. Ask yourselves why NYT is not running anti-Beijing rhetoric from their Bejing fact-checkers right now. Could it be that they already self-censor, because they don’t want their employees to end up in jail? Could it be that Zhao posted to spaces because he knew that NYT would never run his comments? The hypocrisy is clear.