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Lawsuit challenges China’s Internet censorship

Of course, talking about the lawsuit is censored.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Posted on Sep 5, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 3:39 pm CDT

A new challenge to Chinese censorship on the Internet has a very western ring to it.

A southern Chinese lawyer and activist just launched the first-ever lawsuit against state censorship over the country-wide block against Google services like Maps, Translate, Calendar, and Scholar.

Google’s services, which have almost always been subject to some blocks in China, have been almost completely censored since the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square in May.

Wang Long, 26, has been told repeatedly by friends and hordes of Internet commenters that the lawsuit, which was filed in a local Futian court in Shenzhen, Guangdong, will almost certainly be struck down.

“I’ve already considered this, so why did I still sue?” Wang said in an interview last week. “I want to show the people, particularly the online masses, that you have to fight for your rights, that they have to be supported.”

An attorney for Wang’s state-owned Internet service provider, China Unicom, was unable to answer any questions from the judge about customers’ difficulties accessing Google due to his lack of certainty about what can and cannot be said on state censorship. Wang’s supporters in the audience laughed at the attorney’s unwillingness to speak out.

Wang has been able to discuss the lawsuit—and even give critical details like the uncertain silence of China Unicom’s lawyer—on Sina Weibo, China’s popular microblogging site that has been censored heavily in the past.

“They should offer me telecom services, yet they still failed to provide access. They should be held responsible for this failure,” Wang said to the English language newspaper Global Times.

China Unicom, one of three major state-run telecommunications businesses in the country, admitted blocking Google websites during the court hearing, Wang said.

A verdict will come down next month.

H/T New York Times | Photo by Cliffano Subagio (CC BY SA 2.0)

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*First Published: Sep 5, 2014, 6:44 pm CDT