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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09GUANGZHOU645
2009-11-20 09:15:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Consulate Guangzhou
Cable title:  

CHINESE BLOGGERS CONFERENCE MORE DIFFICULT TO

Tags:   PGOV  PHUM  SCUL  KWWW  SOCI  EINT  KEMS  CH 
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VZCZCXRO3720
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHGZ #0645/01 3240915
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 200915Z NOV 09
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1117
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE 0354
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0893
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 0285
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0286
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 0295
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0353
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0004
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0038
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 0260
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC 0334
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC 0330
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC 0095
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 GUANGZHOU 000645 

SIPDIS
STATE FOR EAP/CM, INR/EAP, and EEB/CIP

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/20/2034
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SCUL KWWW SOCI EINT KEMS CH
SUBJECT: CHINESE BLOGGERS CONFERENCE MORE DIFFICULT TO
ORGANIZE WITH EACH PASSING YEAR

Ref: A: 08 BEIJING 4522
B: 09 BEIJING 1970

GUANGZHOU 00000645 001.2 OF 004


Classified By: Consul General Brian L. Goldbeck. Reasons 1.4
(b) and (d).



1. (C) SUMMARY: It can be tough being a blogger in China.
But try gathering dozens of bloggers from all around the
country for a conference and then you'll face some challenges.
The 5th Annual China Blogger Conference faced numerous
obstacles from the initial planning stages right up to the
last day of the event, according to organizers. Bloggers
attending the conference, held in Lianzhou, Guangdong Province
from November 7-8, discussed the meaning of this year's theme,
"Micro Actions Broaden the World," shared know-how on scaling
China's Great Firewall to access blocked content, and hailed
Twitter as the best online communication tool today even
though it has been blocked in China since June 2009. (Note:
Septel will report on bloggers' views of the current and
future role and influence of the Internet in Chinese society.
End note.) End Summary.



--------------------------


"Chased Away" to Lianzhou


--------------------------





2. (C) This year's conference was held in a fourth-tier city
in the mountains of northern Guangdong because the conference
was "driven out of large cities," said Wen Yunchao (aka Bei
Feng, strictly protect), a prominent blogger and one of the
conference's organizers. The annual event had government
support for the first conference five years ago in Shanghai.
Subsequently, it was held successfully in Beijing, Hangzhou,
and Guangzhou. However, each year, the conference has become
harder to plan and organize than the last, Wen lamented,
saying that fellow organizers had approached the governments
of Xiamen and Haikou, only to be turned down because they
apparently viewed the conference as too sensitive and high
profile. (Comment: The Xiamen government may have been
particularly sensitive to the issue given recent arrests in
Fujian of bloggers who reported police inaction and possible
corruption in regards to the alleged gang rape and murder case
of Yan Xiaoling. End comment.)



3. (C) Another organizer, Mao Xianghui (aka Isaac Mao,
strictly protect), also commented to ConGenOff that many
obstacles stood in the way of the event this year.
Specifically, he said that organizers were unable to nail down
the details because they had to wait until mid-October for the
60th anniversary National Day celebrations to be over before
making any final plans and announcements. Publicity about the
event was very low profile this year. News about the
conference was mainly disseminated by word of mouth. Two
postings were posted on the Internet at
"http://www.cnbloggercon.org/blog" and "http://www.
geekcook.org", but the latter, which included logistical
information, was blocked or deleted after only a few days.

Additionally, Mao told Beijing PolOff that the organizers had
tried to get Zeng Jinyan, a blogger and AIDS activist, to
participate either in person or via video conference but it
was not possible. (Note: Zeng's husband, Hu Jia, is an AIDS,
environmental, and human rights activist. The couple
aggressively blogged about alleged harassment by officials and
frequent house arrests. Hu was sentenced to three and a half
years in prison in April 2008 for "inciting subversion of
state power." Since Hu's imprisonment, Zeng has continued to
blog about life under house arrest with a husband in jail.
End note.) Mao said that he hopes to have Zeng's entire
family, including their young daughter, at next year's
conference.



4. (C) According to Wen Yunchao, he and other conference
organizers settled on Lianzhou because Wen had good relations
with the city and was able to secure the support of the city's
largest economic players -- Lianzhou's two main tourist
destinations. Wen told ConGenOff that, as a consequence, the
local government allowed organizers to register the conference
and to hold the event at the Lianzhou Underground River
tourist site. (Comment: Lianzhou government support for the

GUANGZHOU 00000645 002.2 OF 004


conference appeared to have been largely influenced by
economic factors in addition to Wen's apparent good relations
with the local government. The conference attracted a large
number of people to little known Lianzhou for two to three
days, and likely put the tiny city on the map for the greater
blogosphere audience. End comment.)



--------------------------


Keeping a Low Profile


--------------------------





5. (C) The conference attracted about 150 participants from
all over China this year, well short of the 300-plus
participants last year. Attendees however were not made aware
of the event's start time and schedule until the eve or
morning of the conference, many attendees told ConGenOff.
Organizers did not previously post or hand out agendas at the
conference, making announcements regarding each day's
activities as the event progressed. On the first day of the
conference, Wen Yunchao and Mao Xianghui told ConGenOff that
they had more controversial topics planned for the end of the
second day, but they would have to run it by the local
government that night. "If the government is not comfortable
with it, we are prepared to cut the conference short,"
explained Wen. Mao also shared that in order to avoid
scrutiny, organizers tried to diversify the topics discussed
at the conference, including an emphasis on civil society.
Several hours were dedicated to showcasing small grassroots
civil society organizations with an online presence.
Representatives from these organizations ranged from student
groups to social entrepreneurs who hoped to use the conference
as a marketing platform. Conference organizers appeared
particularly cautious this year in an attempt to keep the
event as low profile as possible, but this may have also
contributed to the impression that the event was not well
organized.



6. (C) Despite attempts to avoid attention, the conference was
monitored closely by local authorities. Besides local
government officials, 40 local police officers were also
present at the conference site, claimed Wen. He said that
while most of the officers remained outside the actual venue,
one or two plain clothes officers penetrated the conference
and recorded the event. Multiple attendees identified for
Beijing PolOff and ConGenOff a middle aged man whom they
claimed was an undercover security officer. Multiple
attendees were observed to use Twitter to inform others of the
movements, location and appearance of the supposed
infiltrator. The presumed plain clothes officer took pictures
and video of conference presenters and participants.
However, Wen Yunchao expressed that he was glad they did not
disrupt the conference, speculating that it was likely because
he had been forthcoming with the authorities by providing them
with a name list beforehand of sensitive individuals who would
be in attendance. Wen also commented that local police
officers with whom he spoke said they did not understand the
presentations made at the conference.



--------------------------


"Micro Actions Broaden the World"


--------------------------





7. (C) The theme of this year's conference was "Micro Actions
Broaden the World," or the idea that small actions taken by
individuals can together change the world, explained keynote
speaker Hu Yong (strictly protect), an associate professor at
Beijing University who researches Internet media. Asking the
audience "if there is no criticism, how can you talk of
'constructivism,'" Hu emphasized that every individual has a
responsibility to voice their thoughts, and the Internet gives
people the right to speak, which he called "a kind of
freedom." The idea that small actors can do something grand
was also raised by Mao Xianghui, who pointed to the conference
volunteers and organizers as an example of this in practice.
Both Mao and Wen commented that they were not the leaders or
center of the conference, saying that the conference each year
comes together organically in large part due to the efforts of
many people connecting on the Internet and offering to
contribute. However, based on conversations witnessed by

GUANGZHOU 00000645 003.2 OF 004


ConGenOff and Beijing PolOff during the conference, both Mao
and Wen were major players and decision makers this year.



--------------------------


Blogger Conference, aka Twitter Conference?


--------------------------





8. (C) A show of hands at the conference in response to one
presenter's on the spot survey revealed that the online
communication tool of choice among attendees was Twitter.
According to conference goers, there are many ways to access
Twitter and other blocked sites. A 20-minute presentation was
dedicated to equipping participants with tools to access
Twitter. (See paragraph 12.) ConGenOff and Beijing PolOff
witnessed many attendees "tweeting" while at the conference.
"It is the biggest Internet movement in China today, so if
people want to understand China, they can use Twitter," said
David Feng (strictly protect), a self-proclaimed avid Twitter
user who has attended the blogger conference multiple times.
Although the government appears determined to block Twitter,
bloggers agreed that there was no way the Chinese government
could or would completely deny access to Mainland netizens
determined to use Twitter because there is no effective way of
doing so, short of completely shutting down the Internet.
They argued that such a move would be too high an economic
cost for the government to bear.



9. (C) Twitter was again widely discussed during two other
sessions. Zui Hulu (pseudonym, strictly protect) led a
session on social reporting during which he listed the
essential tools for a "citizen reporter." Zui relayed his
experiences in publicizing the June Nankang furniture protests
(ref B). Besides emphasizing the need to have a "public
sense," he said that one must also be technically prepared by
having a mobile phone with online capabilities; knowledge of
how to scale the Great Firewall; and a Twitter account so one
can disseminate the information to millions. In another
session, Twitter was hailed as the tool that helped free Guo
Baofeng (aka Amoiist, strictly protect), who was detained in
July ostensibly for commenting on an alleged gang rape. Guo,
joining the conference through live video from his home
because his legal status prevented him from leaving Xiamen
city, shared that when he was detained, it was his ability to
log onto Twitter via his mobile phone and send messages to his
online contacts, many of whom he met while attending previous
blogger conferences, that made it possible for netizens to
initiate a "mail to jail" campaign to free him. (Note:
Netizens sentpostcards to the detention center where Guo was
held. Each postcard read, "Guo Baofeng, Your mom is telling
you come home for dinner." According to those familiar with
the campaign, the large volume of postcards likely pressured
the local authorities to release Guo. End note.) Commenting
on this incident, Mao said that the Guo Baofeng incident is
the perfect example of "micro actions" working together to
achieve a greater goal.



--------------------------


Scaling the Great Firewall


--------------------------





10. (C) The conference included a 20-minute presentation on
the various tools one can employ to break through the Great
Firewall and access blocked sites like Twitter. Led by Zhou
Shuguang (aka Zuola, strictly protect), the presentation
touched on proxies but mainly focused on ways to access
Twitter. Zhou directed interested users to his website
(http://www.zuola.com) to obtain a list of frequently updated
IP addresses that can be used to gain access to Twitter. For
users of mobile phones with online capabilities, he
recommended installing the international versions of DABR,
UserWeb, or Opera Mini browsers and interfaces. Zhou also
made suggestions on how to use Twitter within a particular
type of browser. For example, he said that one can install
the Twitter Fox plug-in, a FireFox extension, to use Twitter
within FireFox. Zhou rushed through his session due to time
constraints, but many conference participants approached him
afterwards to obtain more detail.



--------------------------



--------------------------



GUANGZHOU 00000645 004.2 OF 004


Unprecedented Venue Inspires Conference Organizers


--------------------------



--------------------------





11. (C) Held outdoors at the entrance of a large cave that
houses the Lianzhou Underground River, the conference site was
impressive, but not without its difficulties. Large groups of
tourists heading to the cave often interrupted the conference
and disrupted the audio quality. PowerPoint presentations
prepared by the speakers were ineffective because outdoor
light was not ideal for projecting visuals. There were also
snags in video conferencing plans with Hong Kong supporters
when the network stopped working.



12. (C) Despite these challenges, the conference continued as
scheduled, said the organizers. As a bloggers conference,
Internet connectivity was a must, said Wen. He noted that just
having connectivity at the mouth of a cave in a fourth-tier
Chinese city was a noteworthy achievement in itself. He also
stated that he and his fellow bloggers would likely find
unique and symbolic venues in the future to demonstrate the
power of the Internet. (Comment: This was likely another way
of saying that conference organizers will have to be more
creative in the future given the expected ongoing government
scrutiny. End comment.)



13. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Beijing.


GOLDBECK