Notes On Being Banned

Ok, between the TAM Sq. post and the Google post… I’ve hit on a couple controversial topics this week. Looks like the former at least, had an effect on the ability of people to access this site. This has made me consider what exactly goes into banning something in China.

This is to open up the dialog on the whys and hows. If you know stuff about it, please comment. My knowledge of it, though limited, is thus: Claims that a particular site (unless you’re a well-known human right’s group or FLG page) being banned are kinda screwy. However, blocking a range of IPs of say a blog provider, is much more likely (Blogger’s Blogspot and are two that come to mind). This is why Wikipedia is banned in China. I don’t think the powers that be particularly care about the English version of the site, but the user controlled information spewing out in Chinese at the Chinese language page of Wikipedia was a problem. Unfortunately for both, they’re hosted on the same networks, causing a blanket ban on Wikipedia in the Middle Kingdom.

I went around this, and don’t post my blog at a free blog host, but on a paid server. So why over the last few days has my blog been tough to reach in China without some anon software on? I think, and I’m really not certain about this, that local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have software on their servers that monitor the information being pulled through them … if keywords popup a bit to prominently, the site gets stopped and a “No data” or related error is given to the user.

Hence the wording in my June 4th post’s title might have tripped it up. Remove the post (I’ve got my blog set to a five post max on the main page now) and 没他妈的问题!

I sort of wish that I had software like MSN China’s blogs do, telling their users, “This message contains a banned expression, please delete this expression” if they type words that you might expect would give the central gov’t a rash.

In other banning news, Chinese authorities have announced that The Da Vinci Code has been banned in the Mainland. They’ve been unclear as to the why though. As it was well on its way to being the highest grossing foreign film released in China, speculation varies on what the basis was for the sudden announcement for immediate removal from all theatres on Thursday.

Chinese authorities said the withdrawal — an unprecedented move — was to make way for local Chinese movies, a movie company executive said Thursday, declining to be named because she isn’t authorized to speak to the media on the matter.

“This is coming directly from the Film Bureau,” she said, adding that it’s the first time the government has pulled a foreign movie from theaters. – China Daily

As banning means complete denial that the movie even exists, ‘making way for Chinese movies’ is a bit of a bunk answer. Movies, of course, go through rotation – but this movie isn’t just being removed from theatres because it’s had its turn – it’s being wiped from the collective minds of the country. When a movie is banned, it’s not played, sold, discussed… (you will, however, still easily be able to buy the pirate DVD – some industries are untouchable).

There’s little chance that the cries from China’s Christian associations have been so loudly heard that the gov’t would react to them and ban the movie, but as Angry Chinese Blogger speculates (with merit, I think), it might be that the ideas in the movie are having too much of an effect on the population. Making them question the idea of secrets, cover-ups, conspiracies, religion, etc.

Like why Google works sometimes and my site displays sometimes… it joins my growing number of questions as to exactly what goes into getting (or avoiding being) banned.

27 Responses

  1. Hi, Ryan, have you ever heard an ancient Chinese phrase: 画蛇添足, English meaning is to draw a foot on the snake. If not, just ask any of your Chinese students, they will tell you the exact meaning of it. I think it’s so fit for this article. when you happened to use 没他妈的问题! to decorate your humor.
    Just FYI, this chinese word is one of the most shabby words which even the rogue seldom say. maybe in fayaway county still exist.
    Anyway,It’s not a problem, because as you said all of your visitors here is foreigner, so no way to understand the meaning.
    So I have no idea why you are using this word.

  2. Hey Kate, I hadn’t heard the phrase, but I looked it up.. what I found is below. As my students are all like 10 years old, I doubt they could have explained it with any amount of depth.

    Chinese people often tell me that phrases like 他妈的 and 我操(肏) are very uncommon and not used very much… not entirely sure what circles I’m running in, but I hear them both nearly as much as 你好. The phrase “no fucking problem” (the translation of 没他妈的问题) is common English vernacular and that’s why I used it. I put it in Chinese in hopes that some visitor would go to Babelfish and translate it and scratch their head as to why I was saying “Not his mother’s question”.

    The use of the words is arguing semantics. (again) Didn’t mean to offend you. I think you must know by now, I often post without too much regard for how others are going to perceive it… which sometimes causes a bit of debate here. I think that’s a good thing.

    Draw a Snake by Adding Feet to It

    This story dates back as early as the State of Chu (770 – 476 B.C.).
    One day in an ancestral temple after the Spring Sacrifice ceremony, an official offered his men a jar of rice wine. Since there was only enough for one person, they all agreed that each of them should draw a snake; and the quickest one could drink the wine.

    They all began to draw snakes. In just a few minutes, one man finished, but seeing the others still busy with their brushes, he couldn’t help adding some strokes to improve his drawing.

    When he finally finished his improvements, he found, to his great surprise, that someone else had already finished drawing and was ready to get the drink.

    Before he could protest, he heard the others burst into laughter at his drawing, “Look at his snake! A snake with feet!” So the first one lost his chance, and the drink went to the second competitor.

    Hence the expression ” 画蛇添足 ” (Draw a snake by adding feet to it.)

    Moral: Do the superfluous thing causing a negative effect just like Carrying coals to New Castle .

  3. Thank you for the information you posted. It’s the first time that I read the English version of this idiom story.

    yes, “他妈的” is a common word often be used in lots of occasions. Even myself say that too. when I was criticized by my boss. of course after walking out of his office.
    it’s just so weird to piece words together and come into”没他妈的问题”,feel like kind of “The Da Vinci Code”, hard to understand “how” you know it in this way and “why” you use it in your post.

    By the way, it’s a good post but a little “unilateral”,Haha

  4. Haha… since when did my blog become anything but unilateral?

    But care to elaborate?

    As for the “why”, I said. The “how”… your compatriots.

  5. I would like to elaborate it, but my English level is limited,Haha. I’m afraid of any mistaken words being considered as 废话.
    I have no unique opinion about what you mentioned banned things in China. my definition for”unilateral” is just like what we Chinese say”盲人摸象”, means blind men touch an elephant. In other words, I think your views are right,enough for entertainment. but don’t make much sense.That’s all.

  6. Ah, my trusty Wenlin explained it… “盲人摸象” means “take part from the whole” or “draw conclusions based on incomplete data”. See, unilateral means “片面” or one-sided.

    Kate, if nothing else, you’re great for my Chinese. I’m learning all sorts of animal touching/drawing proverbs.

    My view is likely both, as I did start this post by saying my knowledge about this is pretty limited. That said, I do have a pretty good idea of what technology’s capabilities are and I don’t think there’s anything in this post that reflects me drawing conclusions based on incomplete data.

    I do really have to stop getting trapped in these comments where I’m defending my ‘journalistic integrity’. This is not the news. I try to make referrences to media sources whenever I can, but this site is purely my thoughts. Hense it’s a damn blog and not a newspaper.

    The only speculative part of the post was the bit at the end trying to think-out the why of the Da Vinci Code being banned. But hell Kate, they’re your gov’t, not mine… you tell us.

    And while you’re at it, explain what doesn’t make sense… and I’ll even take the time to clear it up for you. I’ve got bugger all else to do.

    Look at that, you’ll be killing two birds with one stone. Animals sure have made their way into a good number of the world’s little clichés.

  7. I do know it’s a blog,not a newspaper. If I want to read a newspaper, I will go to see NYtimes or CNN. But absolutely not China Daily.

    I have no idea why the Da Vinci Code being banned. I do convince you that I fell asleep right after the movie started about 30 minutes. Maybe my gov want to keep us from wasting money on such a boring movie? Haha, just kidding.

    I think your blog is interesting,and your view is unique and incisive. at least you are not only using your eyes but also using your brain to see Nowaday’s China.
    what admired me most is the way you try to learn something you are not aware of. How shamed am I to show my poor ancient idiom to a foreigner.
    Headache……..! can not say more………Happy weekend!

  8. Hey Kate, please don’t get me wrong… I dig the idioms. In fact, I have a book of them that is top of my list to read once my Chinese is actually any good.

    I agree with your comments about the Da Vinci Code. The NYTimes review said that “you could read the book faster than the movie.” If that’s why the CCP banned it, then I’ve just found a whole new level for the respect I have for the gov’t. I also think it’s kinda nifty I saw the first Hollywood movie to be pulled from theatres in China at a Chinese cinema.

    Not sure about the Times, but a lot of places (including Canada’s CBC) get their China news from the wire – same as China Daily…. when it comes to China, in-depth info in nonpartisan newspapers is a bit rare. To flesh out my opinions I tend to supliment with readings from HK news, ESWN Blog (often translates Chinese language news into English) and blog…

  9. Not had any problems accessing your website over the past week, from within Dalian. Perhaps your website access is limited by Google Ads, I mean, if the page is rendered to include Google Ads, the outage from Google may cause the whole page not to render (work).

  10. I had considered this… but I’m pretty certain that the GoogleAds just don’t show up. I’ve noticed on a few China sites when I access them with no proxy the ads just aren’t there.

    Not entirely sure what the deal is.

  11. Hey Kate, the answer is very likely “yes”, but you have to be more specific. I’ve got my headers and my profile pics in a randomizer which chooses a different one each time you visit.

  12. Interesting! No wonder I saw different expression on your face.

    You look a bit like John Travolta who played that “Swordfish”, Very Cool,Haha

  13. Hey mate, chill. If we live here we have to take the rough with the smooth. You should see what the ‘experienced central heating engineers’ have done to my beautiful house. I know it’s irrelevant to your topic, but nevertheless, an irritation. So, I have a little moan at them, pay them their money, and learn to live with it. When in Rome …

  14. Two things Phoebs… actually three:
    1) Man, that sucks… and you’re the better person for accepting to live with it.
    2) If I wrote about how accepting I was of everything in China, I dare say not a person would care to read about it – plus it just wouldn’t reflect my feelings on things, which is what this blog is. I choose to write it, but everyone else also chooses to read it. I write because I love to write, but if you disagree with my opinions about China and all… you certainly don’t have to read the crap I write.
    3) I live here for a very specific reason and she’s waiting to watch a movie with me right now. Our reasons for being here are quite different. You’ve chosen to make China your home, but I’ve chosen to make home where my heart is (there’s a little idiom for ya Kate) – and this may be why our opinions of acceptance differ.

    I’ve piled up a bunch of cushions to make me feel more comfortable (learn the language, cheap place to study, etc.), but I’m pretty certain without Maggie I’d be home in a flash – in a last September flash. And if/when I do eventually leave China, I’m sure I’ll still have a blog bitching and moaning about how the West should be more like China and how much I miss China.

    Life is a complicated jumble of contradictions. Please don’t mistake a blog entry for my entire concept of the world at large. It’s but a slice.

  15. Holy comments!
    I’ve had no problems seeing your site either Ryan.

    Some of my friends however did tell me they have trouble with my Chinese blog, probably also due to my june four post, which was very simply – but I think pound-for-pound, the heaviest-hitting four characters I ever wrote: “勿忘国耻”

    Too bad about DaVinci code. I was looking forward to checking that out, even if it is muck.

  16. Ryan, here’s a book on Animal idioms in English:

    About the technical aspects of the Great Firewall, there are numerous sources. I read up on it a long time ago, but, as usual, have forgotten most of it (I didn’t put it into Supermemo). A good place to start is the Great Firewall page on Wikipedia. They have a lot of references to other pages.

    One thing I do know is that, as you said, local ISPs have a hand in enforcement. This is easy to see: just type “Falun Gong” into any search engine (turn tor off, of course). You’ll see your access to that site blocked for up to a full minute. The local ISPs break the connection in both directions.

    Hah! Of course, everything changes, doesn’t it. After writing the above paragraph, I tried it for myself. The connection will be broken for the individual search terms, but then, it came back again right away. That is, when I entered “falun gong” into the Yahoo search box, I got a screen telling me the connection had been reset. But then, I was able to reload again right away.

  17. Hey Ryan, hope you enjoy the movie.

    1. Yeah, tough shit.

    2. Of course I don’t agree with all you write, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find it either interesting, thought provoking, funny or bollocks. Are you saying that you don’t want people to read your blog unless they totally agree with your viewpoint?

    3. Wait till you get home, you know what’s going to happen. You’ll miss it all.

    When are you going by the way?

    Best regards

  18. @rick: hehe… yeah, this makes 19 (I love having that little number beside the comments… one of the newest additions). My troubles with access come and go. Right now, for instance, I’m reading/writing this via Tor because I get a “no data” error accessing my blog. Maybe it’s just a problem with my system though.

    @Chris: Thanks for the link man. Yeah, I read the Wikipedia page back in December when I installed Tor… guess I should go review.

    @Phoebs: Nono… I certainly enjoy differences in opinion. However, overall, your written opinions on my blog tend to come across as though I shouldn’t have written the post in the first place, which negates the principle of the blog. Basically I’ve noticed with a lot of comments lately on here (controversial issues I guess), I’ve seen the “critic mentality” from people. This is just one of my pet peeves. To criticise a creative endeavor takes far less time, thought and effort than the creative endeavor itself.

    My skin is tough, and I don’t take any of it personally. And I guess non-agreeing comments are better than no comments at all.

    As for when I’m leaving… no idea. I’m going home for a visit come July. Just three weeks of clean air, sparse population, and no spitting. Also, no Maggie… that last one’s a bummer. And the movie sucked. Hollow Man 2 – as if the first one wasn’t crap enough. When left to Maggie to choose, she’ll near-always pick the worst ones, as she just doesn’t have the cultural bias that’s been built into us Western saps who’ve sat through endless amounts of bunk out of Hollywood.

  19. To criticise a creative endeavor takes far less time, thought and effort than the creative endeavor itself.

    – What a bunch of crap!!


  20. Sorry if I give that impression, if I didn’t enjoy reading the blog I wouldn’t bother. You write what you like, I’m all for it. However, if you don’t want people to comment, why not remove the ‘Comment:’ section at the end. Also, just because I make a comment doesn’t mean I’m right, although I usually write what I believe (unless I’m under the influence, when I write any old bollocks that springs to mind – you know how it is).

    The reason I asked about when you were going home was that we may be having a party, and I wondered if you would be here – that’s all.

    On a lighter note, here’s somthing that gave me the biggest laugh of the week. We were driving home from school, there was a young bloke on a motorbike in front of us. He had a bag on his handlebars, you know the type, a shoe-shop bag with a box inside containing a pair of new shoes. He was swerving around to miss the bumps, obviously in a great frame of mind thinking about his new shoes. Suddenly he accelerated away, the bottom fell out of the bag and the shoes dropped into the road. I said to Rich, ‘Catch him up and I’ll tell him.’ We chased him up the road, slowed down beside him, I opened the window and shouted, “Hey mate, you’ve just lost your shoes.” He looked down at the bag, smiled and shook his head, but when we looked in the rear-view mirror he had stopped, realized what had happened, and turned around. I bet his shoes had been run over by a dozen cars before he got them back. It was hilarious.

  21. Hi Kate. No, I’m afraid I don’t really have my own blog. Well, I sort of have one, it’s called “The Diary of a Nobody” and it only has one entry. I just did it because maybe long after I’ve died somone might retrieve it from cyberspace (wherever that is).

    Also, I like to leave chewing gum wedged into obscure paces in ancient relics or natural phenomena (of course, I chew it first). Hopefully, it may be like Jurassic park, and a few million yearse in the future, scientists may find my chewing gum, which will contain my DNA, and they will clone me. In the year 20,062,006there could be thousands of Phoebes roaming the planet looking for Steely Dan Albums.

    Anyway, sorry for clogging Ryan’s blog with nonsense. Nothing worse than a clogged blog.

  22. @Kate: I agree, Phoebe should have her own blog. Not to keep her off mine (as might be guessed, har har) but you’re right, I think she’s likely got some interesting things to share with the blogsphere.

    @Phoebs: I got chills with the idea of thousands of Phoebes (or anyone) roaming the future looking for Steely Dan albums hehe. Perhaps you could buy a Steely Dan member’s hair on eBay and stick it in that gum… then when they clone you, they could also clone him… 😉

    As for the comments being off or on.. nah, I like ’em on. I should be leaving the second week of July. And I’m always up for a party!

  23. Can you trust e-bay? Just my luck to end up with Gary Glitter’s hair (why do you think he doesn’t have any now, it’s all for sale on e-bay) or, worse still, Bryan Adams – aaaaarrrrrrggggghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

  24. Gary Glitter, like the World Cup, is another thing us North Americans are spared much knowledge about. My complete ‘know’ on the guy is A) cheezy 70-80s rocker and B) likes kiddies (and not in the way us teachers do) C) keeps shifting around S.E. Asian countries.

    As for eBay, just make sure you use your PayPal account and if it is the pervert’s… you can get your money back. You will however need to ask a young Cambodian kid for GGs DNA to authenticate.

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