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At Least the Great Firewall Is Not a Prison Wall

politics China
Phil Chu
Phil Chu
Making software since the 80s

The latest Chinese crackdown on activists reminded me of a complaint I saw from an American entrepreneur there who cited web censorship as his top “daily aggravation” and pointed to that along with pollution as the main reasons he would never start a business in China.

I agree those are sucky, but that’s like saying you’d never live in North Korea because of the winters and lack of HBO. Let’s get some perspective — missing out on your email is one thing, but Chinese citizens end up in hard labor camps from blogging or having dinner conversation about democracy (I sometimes wonder if China is propping up North Korea so they look good in comparison).

Last year an activist who was jailed months earlier on her way to the airport to speak at a UN human rights meeting died from lack of medical attention. This is the type of stuff we used to portray in anti-Soviet movies during the Cold War. When I was in Hong Kong, I felt like I was living next to the Death Star, with the TV playing six channels of state television, Hong Kong reporters mysteriously attacked by mainland gangs, and the Chinese government making veiled threats about what would happen at the next Occupy protest. Actually, the Empire (Star Wars, not British) in comparison didn’t seem all that bad — I think they mostly had a PR problem.

So if you have qualms about doing business in China, there are plenty of moral qualms you can pick from: for starters just read the overview from Human Rights Watch.