China is becoming more and more of a progressive nation in terms of economic policies and personal freedoms. That being said, the communist government still flexes their power from time to time. It’s unfortunate that the Internet was the victim in the latest round of arrests.
The official Xinhua News agency reports that the Chinese government has arrested over 10,000 suspects since June. These individuals are suspected of Internet crimes which include “spreading lewd content, arms dealing and illegally collecting citizens’ personal information.” On top of the arrests, the government has also busted over 600 “criminal gangs” who have committed “Internet crimes.”
It doesn’t stop with arrests and gang busting though as China is proving their serious about stopping what they see as Internet crime. The government has ordered 62 Web sites and online forums that hosted “inappropriate content” while servicing fines to 30 Internet providers that allowed access to “unlicensed Web sites.”
The government had this to say about the crackdown:
“Although illegal and harmful information on the Internet has been reduced sharply through intensified crackdowns, fraudulent messages are still seen occasionally… and some telecom service providers are not strict enough when managing websites.”
The government should be cracking down on online criminals. That much is true and I’m sure some of the people arrested are guilty of stealing information or spreading illegal content. The problem is that some of these arrests might not be for Internet crimes, but rather people using the Internet to criticize the government.
A BBC report seems to confirm just as much when they confirmed that the chief of the Beijing Public Security Bureau warned Internet users that they faced punishment for attacking the country’s leaders online. The only problem is that the citizens aren’t told what constitutes as an attack. Any form of criticism could be seen as an attack and met with arrest.
Anonymous has attacked Chinese government Web sites in the past as a way of pushing for more openness on the Web in the country. It will be interesting to see if the Chinese government takes any action against those attacks as part of this latest crackdown. Anonymous may even launch a new attack against China in light of these latest events. It will be interesting to see how things progress either way.