I wonder if there was a time in China when true freedom really existed? The freedom of movement, of information and speech, the freedom to hold your own opinion and not worry about upsetting those in authority.
Sitting on the marvellous new fast train from Suzhou – Beijing. Whizzing me at goodness-knows-how-many-km/h to Beijing, I think about what developments have happened in China since I lived here. In only 3 years big changes have occurred. This fantastic train being one of them. The rapid rate of development in China is astonishing. There is so much more freedom in today’s China than there was even 10-15 years ago. There is freedom for the Chinese to move around their own country, which 60 years ago was impossible. Freedom to start businesses, make their own money and better themselves and their families.
They can travel abroad, although this is still not as easy as for most of the rest of the world. But their opinions and ideas remain hidden unless they are in line with the government. To criticise openly is still dangerous. To remember the myriad events throughout history that the government view as embarrassments and therefore refuse to accept happened, is unacceptable. There are still many people who are monitored and even kept under house arrest. Mothers who lost children during the Tian-anmen massacre are not allowed to campaign for justice or a final resting place for their children.
The government fears losing control. A control it has held over it’s people for decades. It fears outside information. It fears the truth. Tian’anmen, Chairman Mao, the Cultural Revolution, the great leap forward. These things are not taught in schools. Taiwan and Tibet are taboo subjects, and the governement wants to keep track of your every movement within the country.
As someone from a country that cherishes freedom of speech, ideas, opinions and information visiting China is difficult. It’s completely baffling. The lockdown of the internet happened in 2009, while I was still living there. Beginning in June, on the 20th anniversary of Tian-anmen. Youtube was one of the first to be blocked. As you can imagine, it’s difficult to maintain that something didn’t happen when there is video evidence online. Facebook soon followed and during my re-visit I could basically only use my email and the BBC.
Why don’t Chinese people question why the internet is so heavily censored? Why they can’t read any news from outside China? Why are there certain words that won’t type into google or skype? And yet, the younger generation, have found ways around the rules. Those who’ve visited foreign lands and who’ve made foreign friends. My generation and those who follow are beginning to see though the façade. They look outside their own town, city and even country. Will they be the ones to change China? That remains to be seen I suppose, and for now, if you’re visiting China make sure you download a VPN onto your computer or Phone to bypass the Great Firewall.