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Comment Icon0 In September 2006, Foreign Policy published an interview with Li Wufeng, director-general of China’s State Council Information Office (SCIO), which is supposedly the agency in charge of regulating Internet content inside China (Boyer, 2006). Through his interviews with Western journalists, Li revealed some statistics on China’s massive Internet presence, which included about 120 million Internet users and 30 million bloggers in 2006. As staggering as the numbers might sound, Li ironically stated that they neither had the technology nor the manpower to censor or filter the Internet, as they just had dozens of people in the Internet affairs bureau. He also noted that Internet regulation was an international practice. He added that “[w]e have our own choice of the Internet content. If someone is shouting bad things about me from outside my window, I have the right to close that window”.

Comment Icon0 Some Chinese observers pointed out that Li Wufeng should not be considered a “cop” in the first place, as the Information Office of the State Council is neither a public security nor state security agency. Instead, it is argued that the real manpower for policing the Internet could be seen by the sheer number of Internet police websites in different cities and provinces outlining their functions (Xiao, 2006). To reinforce the presence of Internet police online, two cartoon figures “Jingjing” and “Chacha” (Jing Cha = Police) were first introduced to Chinese netizens who visited the main portals of Shenzhen city, Guangdong, in January 2006 (see Figure 8). Director Chen of the Information Center, Internet Security and Surveillance Division, of Shenzhen Public Security Bureau, announced that “[t]he Internet police has existed for a long time. This time we publish the image of Internet police in the form of a cartoon, the purpose is to let all Internet users know that the Internet is not a place beyond the law, and the Internet police will maintain order in all online behaviors” (MacKinnon, 2006).


Figure 8: Jingjing and Chacha Internet police mascots from the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau (Gharbia, 2007).

Comment Icon0 When users visit websites and discussion forums in Shenzhen, they would see these two cartoon police images floating on their screen. While Jingjing and Chacha had their own separate homepages, and netizens could communicate with them about Internet security via QQ instant messaging. However, officials in charge of the Internet Security and Surveillance Division of Shenzhen Public Security Bureau noted that “the main function of Jingjing and Chacha is to intimidate, not to answer questions”. In essence, they stressed that users should not do anything online that they would not otherwise do in a physical public place in China. The significance of Jingjing and Chacha’s appearance is to publicly remind all netizens to be conscious of safe and healthy use of the Internet, self-regulate their online behavior, and maintain harmonious Internet order together. In August 2007, Beijing police announced a similar campaign, with the exception that its mascot officers would be animated. The Beijing version of the characters would appear every half hour on 13 of China’s top web portals, and display messages about Internet laws and conduct (Washington Post, 2007).


Figure 9: Jingjing and Chacha’s appearance in response to critical forum postings on the Sichuan earthquake on 12th May (Gharbia, 2007).

Comment Icon0 These two police mascots have been applied to particularly sensitive topics discussed online as well. Following the May 12 earthquake in China’s Sichuan province, forum posters started criticizing large China-based corporations for not contributing enough to the relief efforts. As the discussion thread grew heated, Internet police mascots, Jingjing and Chacha made an appearance (see Figure 9), reminding users to “Say no to rude and foul language, and instead encourage peaceful and positive attitude” (Dietz, 2008).

Comment Icon0 Finally, besides using police mascots as a form of intimidation online, Beijing police have also posted intimidating signs at the physical premises of Internet cafes. As seen in the photograph in Figure 10, the Chinese message translates to “You should not spread anti-social material on the Internet” at the top, and “Please come with me because you published materials to harm the unity of the nation” at the bottom (Gharbia, 2007). To compound the “Big Mama” effect, around the time of the 2008 Olympic Games, all Internet cafes in the 14 main city districts of Beijing have been mandated to install cameras to take photographs of people as they enter the shop. These photographs, as well as scanned identity cards, would then be uploaded to a citywide database maintained by the Cultural Law Enforcement Taskforce. An online survey by the People’s Daily showed that 72% of respondents were opposed to the measure, calling it an infringement of their rights, which over 26% supporting the regulation because it would benefit children (Macartney, 2008).


Figure 10: Chinese Internet cafe sign: “You must not publish anti-social material on the Internet.” (Gharbia, 2007)

Chapter 5.2.6 – Norms: Panopticon Presence of Authority

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