On September 8, 2010, an online message board for Internet users to send comments to China’s top leaders, Direct Line to Zhongnanhai (直通中南海), was launched by the People’s Daily, the official media organ of the Communist Party of China. As of September 13, the website has already registered more than 23,000 comments to President Hu Jintao alone, regarding issues such as exorbitant housing prices, corruption, environmental pollution, civil rights abuses, and many other problems that people face every day.
Although the forum is touted as a new platform for the people to communicate their concerns directly and openly to the central government leaders, in fact it is heavily restricted.
There are 26 content prohibitions in language identical to charges used by the Chinese authorities to incriminate writers, human rights activists, and reform advocates who express their views openly. The content prohibitions include endangering state security, leaking state secrets, subverting state power, harming national reputation and interests, disturbing social order, etc. (See below for Human Rights in China’s English translation of the 26 prohibitions.)
“This new forum must be viewed in the context of China’s overall policy of tight Internet control – one based on the belief that the openness of the Internet is a threat to stability and that the Internet is an important tool for unifying thinking and guiding public opinion,” said Sharon Hom, HRIC Executive Director. “The real test of the forum’s effectiveness as a genuine ‘direct line to Zhongnanhai’ would be the actual responses to the messages and how the Chinese authorities will address the root causes of the problems raised in these messages.”
For more information on China’s Internet policy, see: