Digital dragnet tightens China’s censorship grip

Hong Kong’s freedom of speech crackdown is just part of a broader global strategy to silence Party critics

China’s destruction of limited democracy in Hong Kong is a New Year warning that can not be ignored by the global community.

On Monday, another independent media website Citizen News announced it would cease operations this week, silenced by the draconian National Security Law.

“Regrettably, the rapid changes in society and worsening environment for media make us unable to achieve our goal fearlessly. Amid this crisis, we have to first make sure everyone on the boat is safe,” the news portal, which was launched in 2017, said in a statement.

Yet the crackdown in Hong Kong is just part of a broader strategy to muzzle dissent at home and abroad in the traditional Press and social media.

Fear and loathing:

  • Three news outlets have closed in Hong Kong for independent reporting.
  • Stand News shut down last week while pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily ceased publication last year.
  • Journalists have been harassed and arrested under the Beijing-imposed National Security Law.
  • In the rest of China, students overseas have been monitored on social media.
  • Any deviation from official Communist Party policy has been punished.

Total control: China’s tight grip on state-run media is the centerpiece of a major propaganda campaign to censor “criticism” aimed at President Xi Jinping’s regime.

The decision of ceasing operation showed that they are unable to adapt to the new situation …

Lau Siu-kai, deputy president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies

Power play: “[Citizen News] has long taken the ‘fourth power’ as [a] privilege by criticizing the central government and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government,” Lau Siu-kai, the deputy president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told state-run Global Times

Grave new world: “The decision of ceasing operation showed that they are unable to adapt to the new situation or have no idea about how to deal with the future,” Lai said.

Delve deeper: China’s suppression of free speech is backed and bankrolled by the Party and state with its tentacles reaching across the globe. 

Track and trace: “The authorities have turned to advanced tech to track and silence critics on overseas social media,” the New York Times has reported.

Negative news: “The digital manhunt represents the punitive side of the government’s vast campaign to counter negative portrayals of China,” the NYT pointed out. 

Digital dragnet: “The Chinese government has built an extensive digital infrastructure and security apparatus to control dissent on its own platforms. [Now it] is going to even greater lengths to extend its internet dragnet to unmask and silence those who criticize the country on Twitter, Facebook, and other international social media,” the New York Times said.

China Factor comment: President Xi and his inner circle have been quick to exploit Western social media sites that are banned in China. At the same time, Beijing has strengthened the Great Firewall at home, fanning the flames of nationalism by distorting world opinion.