Digital Journalism Review

Netizens launch White House petition to ban architects of the Great Firewall from entering US

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 January, 2013, 5:08pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 January, 2013, 8:44pm

Chinese netizens enraged by online restrictions pick personal targets as they expose more programmers working on the Great Firewall and petition the US government to deny censorship supporters’ entry to the United States.

A document entitled “The Great Firewall (GFW) Contributers List” was uploaded to code-sharing site by an anomymous online user with username “yefuchs”  on Tuesday morning.

The list contained more than 180 names, many written in Pinyin without using Chinese characters. Only seven people on the list had job titles and only two of them – Fang Binxing, professor at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications (who is often regarded as the “Father of the Great Firewall”) and Han Weili, professor with the Shanghai-based Fudan University – have clear employer information.

It remains unclear who created and uploaded this list to but it is pretty sure the list is targeting many people who claimed to have helped build the GFW.

Han claimed on Sina Weibo, a Chinese Twitter-style social media platform, on Saturday that he had never “contributed any code for or been involved in” the GFW project.

The last time Han posted a message on Sina Weibo was on Sunday afternoon, when he said he was invited by authorities to join them for coffee on Monday.

Chinese authorities’ increasingly severe controls on internet in recent months has deeply annoyed many Chinese netizens, especially programmers. After GitHub, a popular code and project-sharing website, was blocked for about two days early last week, progammers launched an online petition on the website of White House on Friday, saying that “the builders of Great Firewall in China ... should be denied entry to the US.”

The URL of the White House petition circulated Twitter and other Chinese social media sites over the past five days, with more than 8,400 people signing up.

Chinese netizens are hoping to collect 100,000 signatures before February 24, after which the White House will have to reply to the petition –  raising more international awareness of China’s Great Firewall censorship.

Many posts calling for people to sign the petition were deleted from Sina Weibo, forcing some to resort to humour encourage more people to sign.

“Everyone who signs will have a chance to participate in a lottery after February 24,. The top prize will be a green card for the United States. The chances are limited and please do not tell others,” quipped Hong Kong-based software developer Alan Huang on Twitter, posting the link to the petition web page.