Just watched a very interesting Frontline on PBS tonight. The story was about the famous "Tank Man" from the Tienenman Square protests in China in 1989. If anyone recalls, in 1989, students from Beijeng University, in front of the world, held pro-Democracy protests against the Chinese government. The students actually controlled the area in Tienenmen Square for several weeks. The most famous act from these protests is where a young man ("Tank Man") stood in front of on-coming tanks from the Chinese army which had been sent in to crush the protestors. They did a great job. Anywhere between 500-3000 protestors were killed and hundreds jailed.
The Frontline story was not so much about the Tank Man himself, but the ability of the Chinese government to suppress any information about the incident to its citizens for 17 years. Frontline documented that China has over 111 million Internet users, but has over 30,000 Internet police monitoring user activity.
What was sobering to me are the American companies aiding the Chinese government in the monitoring of Internet usage. Identified were Yahoo, Cisco, Microsoft, and Google. Frontline did a Google search in which they typed in "Tienenmen Square" in America and got over 2.9 million hits. Frontline did the same Google search in China and got only 3 pages! When brought before Congress in hearings over the matter, the companies, stated that they "were distraught internally" about supressing information (through the Interenet), they thought that the matter was "Chinese Law" and that as part of Chinese Law, when they entered into the agreements with the Chinese government, they had no choice but to comply with measures to suppress specific types of information. Paraphrasing a Cisco statement, Cisco went so far to say that "what the Chinese government does with our equipment that we sell them is their business, not ours."
Frontline showed a picture of Tank Man to four Beijing students. Just seeing their faces was amazing. Their were stunned. They had never seen this picture. Two of the students couldn't believe that the picture was real, that it somehow been doctored. Another student thought it was a piece of art!
I make no bones about it, I hate Communism. I hate it because any political system that tries to crush the human spirit to be and live free is immoral. However, if its true (and you know readers in your heart of hearts that it is), the fact of American companies making profits and doing so by:
- Preventing Chinese citizens from free and unfiltered access to information
- Helping the Chinese government identify users who use the Internet to foster any ideas of democracy or freedom
I wonder what brave man or woman stood up in the middle of the room (where I'm sure the CEO was) and said such a sale would be wrong. What do you think?