Thursday, July 23, 2009

Namibia disappears for the Chinese

See what you can do when you are head of a country, even if that country has more than a billion people?

According to the Chinese government, Namibia — a southern African country with a population of 2 million — does not exist.

Government censors ordered Chinese search engines to show no search results for the country's name this week, following a corruption scandal involving a Chinese tech company's dealings with Namibia's government.

The company, Nutech, was formerly run by the son of Chinese president Hu Jintao. It is under two separate investigations by Namibian and European Union officials for allegedly using illegal methods, including bribery and unfair trade practices, to secure a USD55.3 million contract to sell cargo scanners to the Namibian government.

Though Jintao's son is not a suspect in the case, government censors have reacted swiftly to the investigation, shutting down two Chinese tech news sites and blocking a list of keywords including "Hu Haifeng, Namibia, Namibia bribery investigation, Yang Fan bribery investigation, Nuctech bribery investigation, [and] southern Africa bribery investigation." Searching for these words on Chinese search engine produces an error message [ZH] that can be translated as, "Search results may not be in line with the relevant laws and regulations and policies, not shown."

The past two months have been busy ones for Chinese censors. In early June the government blocked access to Twitter, Hotmail and Flickr in preparation for the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Less than a week later, the news broke that the government would begin requiring all PCs sold in the country to come equipped with Internet filtering software. And in July, Internet access was completely shut down in the capital of the Xinjiang region after ethnic riots that left nearly 200 people dead.

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