Paul Mozur: China's Self-Defeating Censorship
...During the debate over Internet censorship that has raged since Google stopped filtering search results in China, the unsettling example of Xinjiang — which with a population of 20 million represents one of the largest examples of Internet suppression the world has ever seen — has rarely been mentioned. It must be considered.
Indeed, though it is not so difficult to imagine going without Youtube or Twitter, which are regularly blocked in China, the crippling effect that China’s policies have had on Xinjiang serve as a reminder of just how dependent the world has become on the Internet. When I traveled through the region in September, businesses were already struggling to adjust. Many had switched to phones to place and fill orders....
In Xinjiang, Internet censorship has inconvenienced people, hurt the economy and increasingly dented the government’s standing. Although controls in Xinjiang are far more draconian than in the rest of China, the province can be viewed as a microcosm of China itself. In the long-term, China’s censorship regime will only work to destabilize the country and discredit the government.
To pull the plug on the Internet for 20 million of its citizens is not simply bad policy, it’s a violation of human rights. And although for now China is unlikely to change its heavy-handed approach to Internet censorship, it is appropriate to remind the Chinese government that persistence in these policies will result in the same phenomenon happening in Xinjiang — exodus.
According to a recent study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, 92 percent of Chinese graduate students who received doctorates in the United States in 2002 were still in the U.S. five years later. Although freedom of information is just one factor for these academics, it is significant. Tearing down the walls China has built to cut itself off from the world would be a step to wooing back some of these future lights....
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