The Communist government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has approved a law that requires Chinese internet users to register with their real names. They claim it is to protect personal information, but the reality is far more sinister.
The internet has been the only forum where Chinese citizens have been able to safely and anonymously speak out against abuses. All other media, including newspapers and television, are strictly controlled by the power of the state. This has meant that people have denounced officials online for illegal activity they would not dare to report in a less anonymous forum. That fact, combined with the realization of the important role of social media in the Arab Spring protests precipitated the crackdown.
The PRC has long censored the internet, but users have been able to use encrypted virtual private networks (VPNs) to bypass such controls. Now, however, Chinese authorities are making efforts to disrupt and block such encrypted traffic. All of these steps seem to be part of a deliberate campaign to intimidate whistleblowers and raise the personal costs of exposing corruption.
China has made significant progress in economic reform, but this effort to end anonymous access to the internet should make it clear to every freedom-loving person worldwide that China remains a totalitarian state with no respect for the basic fundamental political rights of its people. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a responsibility to speak out against such abuses of basic rights of privacy by a major world power. Let us all hope they find the moral courage to do so.