Last weekend in Handan, China, a city of 1.3 million, the public water system was shut off five days after a chemical leak occurred upstream from the city. The chemical was aniline, a toxic and very flammable chemical. Nine tons of this toxin was leaked into the stream, and the government only released reports on it because people were starting to ask questions. With the current era of censorship that is plaguing China, the ability to get such news out has become quite difficult.
Clashes over censorship have been frequent in China lately after the Chinese government swapped out a pro-constitutional government editorial in Beijing's Southern Weekly for a pro-communist piece. There has also been controversy lately over China's new "internet real-name registration" rule, which makes citizens use their real name when blogging about Chinese current affairs.
This is the two-tiered method China is using to quiet the discord. If they can control the editors, and scare people away from publishing online for fear of revealing their identity as a dissenter, then China will have won the battle of who gets a chance to speak up. This is antithesis to public discourse. If Egyptians and Syrians who have protested their corrupt governments had not had the gift of technology to aid them, then they may not have been able to organize themselves in the way they have. China has not yet made such a movement completely impossible for its citizens, but it is certainly trying, and it seems they may succeed.
Those who have protested the use of censorship, like the writers of the Southern Weekly, are making strides, but the government is working hard to quiet them. Even Google, the internet super-giant has been unable to quell the efforts of the Chinese government. Within the last month Google has given up on its initiative to alert users in China when their results are being censored. The Chinese government found a multitude of ways to combat this effort, and after about a year, Google finally gave up on trying.
If the United States is going to continue to do business with China, then someone needs to speak out against these actions. Our government is far too willing to get involved in the affairs of the Middle East, but somehow we've given China a pass. The citizens of China will continue this fight, and it seems wrong not to give them a hand.