Over on our ASEAN Beat blog today, Filipino lawmaker and blogger Mong Palatino discusses how the protests in Egypt are going down in Southeast Asia. One of the points he makes will, as I’ve mentioned before, be at the forefront of the Chinese government’s mind—namely the fear that citizens might feel there’s a lesson or two to be learned and applied.
As China Digital Times reports in its latest collection of censorship demands that are circulated to Chinese media and Internet firms, the government has been keen to tamp down debate on the ongoing protests. It notes, for example, the following communication:
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Disturbances in Egypt
January 28, 2011
From the State Council Information Office and Bureau 11 of the Ministry of Public Security:
For the disturbances in Egypt, media across the nation must use copy circulated from Xinhua. Websites are to strengthen (monitoring) of posts, forums, blogs, and particularly posts on microblogs. Our bureaus will forcibly shut down websites that are lax in monitoring.
But as discussed on the Carter Center’s excellent ‘China Elections and Governance’ section, this hasn’t been the end of the story. As noted by the China programme’s assistant co-ordinator, Jennifer Smith, China’s netizens have been finding ways around the non-official news blackout to get their views out.
Among those quoted are political commentator Zhang Wen, who had this to say about the implications of the unrest for democracy in China:
‘Democracy is a good thing—this isn’t even any longer a matter of debate, as the majority of Chinese people have already reached a consensus. But how to implement this good thing in China, and to what extent to implement it remain questions that still need to be resolved. Judging from the statements of the ruling authorities, one could conclude that China is not fully ideologically prepared for democracy. This can be seen from the organized public criticism of the concept of “universal values.”’
Next week, The Diplomat is launching its China special, which will be covering a wide range of issues including the prospects for democracy and civil society. We have a great collection of contributors drawn from all over the world and we’re looking forward to sharing what they had to say on some of the key challenges facing China, including this question of democracy.