You don't need to read Chinese to know what Chinese blogger Isaac Mao thinks of Microsoft's censorship of the blogger Zhao Jing, aka "Michael Anti."
I wish to be very specific here: I am challenging this specific decision regarding Anti's blog. I have saved the last two posts from the Anti blog here: The second last one urges Beijing News subscribers to call in and cancel their subscriptions (see here (in Chinese and translated in English)) and the last one tells current Beijing News workers to walk out of their jobs as a moral imperative (see here (in Chinese and translated in English)). Which part of the Code of Conduct is being violated? And what national law(s) was(were) broken? I would like an explanation about that decision. I can't see it. If MSN Spaces has some other ideas, then they ought to tell us so we know where the real redline is, according to the beliefs of their employees.
In the same post Roland also gives us a translation of an exchange between another Chinese blogger and MSN customer service:
I have previously reported two instances of abuse on MSN Spaces sites and they were appropriately dealt with. I thank you. But today I want to complain about a blog that I read every day and which had no abusive conduct. More than 600 people subscribe to it on bloglines and the author is the renowned media person Anti, who was a judge in this year's world blog competition. Why did you shut down his blog? Please give a reason to an ordinary user who has always supported Microsoft and your work. Is there no freedom of speech in China? I await your response, thanks.
Dear Respected User, how are you? We thank you for your letter to the MSN Spaces Technical Support Center concerning abuse. We are sorry, but this Space touched upon political factors and we had to close it down. We are deeply sorry to have caused you any inconvenience. Regards, Cai Lingyan (蔡凌燕), MSN Spaces Technical Support Center.
Touched upon politics? Which rule of conduct of MSN Spaces did that break? I went through the Code of Conduct and I could not find it. Thanks.
Dear Respected User, how are you? We thank you for your letter to the MSN Spaces Technical Support Center concerning abuse. Concerning your question, we need more time to make additional assessment and study. Although we are unable to give you an exact time about when the problem will be solved, we ask you to trust that we are trying our best to solve that problem. We are sorry that we cannot provide an immediate answer, but we will try our best to solve that problem for you as quickly as possible. Regards, Cai Lingyan (蔡凌燕), MSN Spaces Technical Support Center.
Roland also dismisses Robert Scoble's Tuesday update on the situation:
That is just unacceptable. Maybe the MSN Spaces workers think that their lives are at risk. But it cannot be more so than that the life of blogger Anti, who is owed an explanation just which specific MSN Spaces Code of Conduct he violated or which national law he is alleged to have broken. More generally, who are these MSN Spaces employees? Why are they deciding what can or cannot be spoken in China? What are their qualitifications? What training did they have? What is the basis from which these decisions are being issued? In the absence of information, I have zero confidence in them. Please prove that I am wrong (and it had better be more than your fearing for their lives!).
On the afternoon when Microsoft deleted my space, I did not feel anything at all. A few days ago, I was at Peking University speaking to students and someone asked me whether MSN Spaces would be shut down on account of me. My response was, "When the warning comes, Microsoft will sell me out first. So everybody should feel free to use MSN Spaces." I sensed that the day will be coming. Over the last days, the daily traffic was about 15,000, and then everything was deleted. Damn Great Wall, damn Microsoft. I will make Microsoft pay.
That night, I felt bad and I cried.
It is so hard to be a free Chinese person. This year, my blog was shut down twice because I supported media (Chinese Youth Daily and Beijing News). When I was in Hong Kong, I told the reporters that I know where the bottom line is. The problem is that when my fellow media are in trouble, it is my obligation as a member of the news media to offer support immediately. Under this type of moral obligation, personal bottom lines are irrelevant. One can continue to live meticulously and technically, but one must also have another side that puts everything aside to express true feelings.
In other Chinese censorship news, it appears that the Chinese blog-hosting company Bokee has restored the blog of Wang Yi (Chinese). They shut his blog down at the end of December for posting a petition protesting a police shooting of protesting villagers in Southern China last month. (See a story here about his blog and the incident that came out shortly before he was shut down.) Now he is back up. In his first blog post upon restoration (Chinese), Wang says he hired a lawyer took some kind of legal action which caused Bokee to restore his blog. The details of what happened are not clear.
I wonder what will happen if Anti brings similar legal action to MSN.
UPDATE: A few other reactions from Chinese bloggers:
(my bad translations, feel free to correct me in the comments section)
Wang Ning reacts (on an MSN Spaces blog) to the whole situation by saying: "There is a syndrome in Chinese society nowadays (naturally including most big Euro/American companies based in China): aside from material interests, there is no longer any other true or false. Every one of us should reflect on this."
In a letter to Anti, lamenting that she can't read him any more, "Zi Zi" quotes Einstein, who (according to Zi Zi) said something along these lines: there are three kinds of people in the world: the wise, the good and the powerful. If power is not controlled by the wise and the good, the world will not be very good. (I can't find the real quote - but her point is clear.) [Thanks to Wang Ning for the name correction.]
There is also an interesting essay making the rounds on Chinese blogs. It argues that MSN did the right thing by "sacrificing" Anti, because if it hadn't, the entire MSN Spaces service would be unavailable to all Chinese bloggers, and that would be a greater loss. He says Chinese people should thank MSN for the same reason they should thank the U.S. for not implementing sanctions. Then he goes on to say:
"The disgraceful thing is, its a fact that Chinese people are on a lower rung than other people. It doesnt matter if you are applying for a visa or if you are traveling abroad as a tourist or if you go online. Of all the world's MSN Spaces users, only Chinese users can be shut down, but we still have no choice but to use it. This is kind of like when we go to get American visas, it doesn't matter how much hassle, we still must find some way to get one. Once there was a [Chinese] countryman who had emigrated to Australia. He had gotten an Australian passport primarily not because it was convenient for him to travel, but because he couldn't stand the feeling he got when, going through Chinese customs with a Chinese passport, the Chinese customs officials would eye him so coldly. I realized, the Chinese people are a rung lower than everybody else not because the foreigners look down on us. It's because Chinese people devalue other Chinese people; Chinese people don't treat their own people like humans."
The point of all this being that Chinese people themselves are ultimately responsible for allowing their fellow countrymen to be censored, and that the ultimate solution is going to have to be initiated by the Chinese themselves. The comments thread on this blog where the essay was re-posted is long, with a variety of views about the essay, some agreeing with the initial argument about the necessity of Anti's sacrifice, and others disagreeing. My favorite comment is one that says: "The world is getting flatter but the great wall is getting thicker."