Growing up in Hong Kong, one quickly learns how fortunate we are to be able to enjoy freedom of speech, and the lack of censorship. It is one place where you still do see China’s method of “one country, two systems”: while in Hong Kong, we have access to uncensored internet and freedom of speech, China is not privy to the same access.
Access to uncensored internet doesn’t just make a country a better place by itself; instead, it provides its citizens with the tools and information they need for self-improvement. Take google.cn’s censoring of images when you search for “tiananmen square.” If, say, you’re a curious adolescent living in China, and you have taken an interest in China’s history, and particularly the Cultural Revolution, you might want to do some research about it. However, the information you will glean from an internet search (or likely from any sort of research you might undertake, as I have a sneaking suspicion that books painting the events of Tiananmen Square in a less-than-flattering light have been censored as well) will not give you an accurate picture of the events that occurred. How can one properly their history, or the current state of things, if attempts to learn about them are quashed by the government? Shielding the people from information about their own past, or their families, doesn’t protect or help anyone. Instead, it helps the Chinese government to deny their past, and instead of helping their people, it hurts them.
Hong Kong, however, is different. While google.com is redirected to google.com.hk, you can opt-out of the redirection, and search using the “normal” version of Google, thanks to the relative lack of censorship in Hong Kong. While just north Hong Kong, in China, you will not find information about Tibet’s desired cessation from China, Hong Kong enjoys enough freedom to have numerous “Free Tibet” protests.
However, Hong Kong is truly just a vestige of colonial rule. While the Sino-British Joint Declaration stipulates that the people of Hong Kong will enjoy the same rights and freedoms as they did under British colonial rule for at least 50 years after returning to Chinese rule in 1997, there is strong evidence that these freedoms will not extend beyond 2047. China’s influence, and desire to manage it’s people, is simply too great to allow the people of Hong Kong, who are of so much important to the surrounding region and to the world, to be so influenced by outside sources. Already, we have seen evidence of this;: in 2002, the government proposed Article 23 of the Basic Law, which would have prevented treason and subversion against the Chinese Government. This was met with great opposition, and because Hong Kong still maintains a separate (although highly influenced by China) government, the Article was not passed. Had it been passed, however, one would have seen changes to the internet similar to what is seen in China– very little that makes the Chinese government look bad.
2 thoughts on “Censorship and Free Speech in China and Hong Kong – by “Charlotte M””
I think you have a point when you say that “uncensored access to the internet doesn’t just make a country better; instead it provides the tools and information they need for self-improvement.” In fact, I think it is this very self-improvement that worries the Chinese government. If the people of China are able to learn the truths about their recent history and current events among other things, they would begin to see how corrupt their government is. The number of “curious adolescents” that learn the truth about Tiananmen Square would increase very rapidly and likely pose a serious threat to the continued existence of the current Chinese government.
Yeah, I agree with I’noli. The Chinese government is very selective in what they censor. They are not trying to restrict all the information that a country needs to learn in order to improve themselves, just certain information that would perhaps create dissent against the current government. To many in the Western world, letting Chinese citizens learn about Tienanmen Square and other similar topics would allow them to fight for positive change. However, the government obviously doesn’t want this, and in their eyes, access to this information would not bring about “improvement” but would create dangerous unrest. Perhaps this is what China needs in order to improve, however.