2006.05.21: May 21, 2006: Headlines: COS - China: Intelligence Issues: Privacy: Surveillance : Austin American Statesman: Craig Simmons writes: I had my first lesson in government surveillance when I worked in China as a Peace Corps volunteer in the mid-1990s, a lesson that has been reinforced many times during the six years I've lived here

Peace Corps Online: Directory: China: Peace Corps China : The Peace Corps in China: 2006.05.21: May 21, 2006: Headlines: COS - China: Intelligence Issues: Privacy: Surveillance : Austin American Statesman: Craig Simmons writes: I had my first lesson in government surveillance when I worked in China as a Peace Corps volunteer in the mid-1990s, a lesson that has been reinforced many times during the six years I've lived here

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Craig Simmons writes: I had my first lesson in government surveillance when I worked in China as a Peace Corps volunteer in the mid-1990s, a lesson that has been reinforced many times during the six years I've lived here

Craig Simmons writes: I had my first lesson in government surveillance when I worked in China as a Peace Corps volunteer in the mid-1990s, a lesson that has been reinforced many times during the six years I've lived here

I learned how effective China's security apparatus can be a year ago, when I hired a student in a central Chinese city to help me set up interviews. After we had talked a few times on the phone and exchanged several e-mails, local police officers stopped by her apartment and grilled her about what I was working on. She was worried that they would put a note in her personal record a government file she will need when she applies for a job so she quit. For me, it was another reminder of the value of privacy. When people cannot be sure who is listening and if they may face punishment for talking many do the obvious thing and say nothing.

Craig Simmons writes: I had my first lesson in government surveillance when I worked in China as a Peace Corps volunteer in the mid-1990s, a lesson that has been reinforced many times during the six years I've lived here

Big Brother keeps eyes and ears on everything

Monitoring of phone, e-mail, Web use is standard procedure

By Craig Simons
INTERNATIONAL STAFF
Sunday, May 21, 2006

BEIJING Americans may be concerned about what the government will do with the millions of private telephone records it reportedly has collected. But Chinese citizens know what their government does with such information. And so do Americans and other foreigners living here.

In China, Big Brother is listening.

Chinese authorities monitor telephone calls by foreign correspondents not just calling patterns, as the National Security Agency is reported to have checked, but individual conversations. Online, roughly 50,000 "Internet police" patrol the Web in search of objectionable speech or images. Even cell phone text messages are censored.

I had my first lesson in government surveillance when I worked in China as a Peace Corps volunteer in the mid-1990s, a lesson that has been reinforced many times during the six years I've lived here.

Shortly after I arrived at a college in China's central Sichuan province to teach English in 1996, one of the first locals I met was Mr. Lan. He was a retired farmer the school employed to answer the single phone that volunteers shared and, we later learned, to write down the name of each caller.

Ostensibly, Mr. Lan was there to protect us, but his probing took on a sinister edge when several Chinese friends were admonished by the school's Communist Party for spending too much time with us: Our friendship had been tracked through our phone calls.

After I became a journalist, the eavesdropping became more ominous. A Chinese friend who works in the Beijing government (and who asked to remain anonymous) said that while the Ministry of State Security doesn't have the resources to listen to every phone call made by foreign journalists, "they occasionally eavesdrop because they want to know what you're doing."

Shortly before one longtime Beijing correspondent left his post last year, a sympathetic foreign ministry officer showed him a huge dossier listing presumably every phone call he had made while reporting from China.

Security agents also have developed technologies to read e-mail messages as they are being written and to block the delivery of messages containing banned words and phrases, said Xiao Qiang, director of the University of California's China Internet Program.

I learned how effective China's security apparatus can be a year ago, when I hired a student in a central Chinese city to help me set up interviews. After we had talked a few times on the phone and exchanged several e-mails, local police officers stopped by her apartment and grilled her about what I was working on. She was worried that they would put a note in her personal record a government file she will need when she applies for a job so she quit.

In a country that sometimes arrests people who offend officials, her fears were reasonable.

In December, Chinese authorities charged New York Times researcher Zhao Yan with revealing state secrets a catchall law often used to imprison political dissidents after a story in the newspaper forecast the retirement of former military chairman Jiang Zemin. The New York Times has said that Zhao did not provide state secrets and in March the government dropped its charges but kept Zhao in jail.

On Tuesday, the Times reported that Chinese prosecutors have reintroduced the charges against Zhao.

Instilling fear in Chinese citizens may be Beijing's intention: By monitoring communications, officials raise the stakes for people who talk with foreign journalists.

One Beijing student expressed that sentiment last year when I called her for comment about the closure of a popular Internet chat room.

"I can't talk to you," she said. "If the authorities find out, I won't be able to get into graduate school."

For me, it was another reminder of the value of privacy. When people cannot be sure who is listening and if they may face punishment for talking many do the obvious thing and say nothing.





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Story Source: Austin American Statesman

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - China; Intelligence Issues; Privacy; Surveillance

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