I had it coming, I guess. Less than 48 hours after I published an article about the internet situation in Xinjiang (including a short sentence about the ability to circumvent the block), every single internet and phone loophole across the province suddenly stopped working. Obviously it is most likely a coincidence, but I’m beginning to feel guilty when I get concerned calls from other foreigners asking me if my ability to access the internet has been disabled as well.
As I sit here in a hotel room in Shanghai, soaking up what may be the last ounce of internet I see until February, I find myself struggling with what is happening back in Xinjiang. A lively discussion on the ethics of this internet block took place over at the Peking Duck and although I find it interesting I’m glad I didn’t get the chance to enter the debate.
The fact is that I moved to Xinjiang knowing full-well that I was subjugating myself to China’s laws and leadership. I don’t feel that I have the right to complain (although I do reserve the right to remain frustrated!) and I definitely don’t feel like packing up and calling it quits. I refuse to let the internet dictate my life no matter how important it may seem.
That said, as I prepare to go back into the province without any more loopholes to boast about, I am comforted by the words of Oliver August in the closing of a great article he wrote about China’s policy toward the internet (h/t Haohao Report):
No shield, golden or otherwise, can protect [China's government] from the public. China’s leaders should know this. Their predecessors built the Great Wall of China to keep out Mongol invaders. It proved as useful as every other fixed fortification in history, and the Mongols still invaded Beijing and overthrew the political elite.
Quite right. Then again, it sucks being the one trying to find the holes in that fortification.