internet CENSORSHIP

A Twitter riddle: China hosts 'Summer Davos' but refuses to relax internet censorship, unlike at recent sporting events in Beijing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 September, 2015, 12:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 5:42pm

Chinese premier Li Keqiang will give the keynote address at the annual World Economic Forum summit in northeast China on Thursday, but don't expect much live-tweeting as access to social media remains highly restricted. 

Officially called the "Annual Meeting of the New Champions", the event takes place in the port city of Dalian in Liaoning province from Wednesday to Friday

But while some recent sporting events in the country have seen the censors loosen their steely grip, the Great Firewall (GFW) remains firmly in place for this three-day affair, with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, The New York Times and many more foreign sites blocked as usual. 

READ MORE: What to expect from China's premier Li Keqiang as he seeks to reassure the global economy at 'Summer Davos'

A South China Morning Post reporter attending the event was unable to connect to three of the more popular virtual private networks (VPNs), which are used to tunnel through the GFW, as China's internet regulators have cracked down on methods to bypass such filtering.

On Monday, popular VPN provider Astrill warned users of poor service due to "increased censorship" in the wake of a major military parade in Beijing feting the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war in Asia. 

"The authorities are hell-bent on cracking down on circumvention tools, denying Chinese the ability to view uncensored overseas website," Charlie Smith, founder of GreatFire.org, which monitors online censorship in China, told the Post.

"We expect that the authorities will continue to take steps to shut down all circumvention tools and VPNs."

At other major international events, such as the Beijing 2015 World Championships in Athletics last month, the government has lifted internet restrictions for attendees

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were all accessible for people using Wi-fi at event grounds and competition venues in Beijing. Similar arrangements were put in place at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics. 

Ironically, this was not the case at high-tech events such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Asia in Shanghai earlier this year, or at the ongoing WEF event, where Li is expected to promote his "Internet Plus" strategy. 

This did not stop the organiser providing attendees and reporters a detailed list of Twitter hashtags for use during the event such as #futureweb and #globaltrade.