Wednesday, 9 May 2007

A practical lawsuit against China internet censorship

A practical lawsuit against China internet censorship

You can support us by digging it at lawsuit against China Internet Censorship..
You can simply send me email yetaai at gmail.com to say what you think about it.
On 2007 February 28th, I found that I could not connect to a web site of mine, http://www.realcix.com/. The 'traceroute' command told me that the problem came from a router inside the China Telecom network. As a customer of China Telecom, I asked for a fix, for 'maintenance' in computer jargon.
After a month and many messages back and forth, China Telecom investigated. They told me that the problem was caused by a "*non replicable reason*". They could do nothing. Also, China Telecom cannot or will not provide a reason on paper. Such a reason could be acknowledged by a court. China Telecom will only tell me by telephone.
Many people know that internet censorship in China is a big obstacle to the progress of democracy. How can we use law to improve this situation?
In China, there is no clear, legal statement about the human right to know truth or to make approaches towards it. Moreover, legal suits may only involve direct stakeholders. You may not sue a legal entity with an indirect connection. The dynamic nature of the internet makes facts hard to prove.
Here I will tell you about a legal suit that could greatly change the situation of internet censorship in China. I even hope to improve the Chinese Constitution.
But I can only do this with your support! At the same time, I want to show to everyone that democracy can be reached by peaceful methods.
Help wanted! Please, link to this article, email this article to your friend, or just let more of your friends know. This will help! Even better, come to court! This trial will be held in Shanghai at 9:00AM (Beijing time, zone of UMT+8:00) May 29th. The place is No. 611 Ding Xiang Road, Pu Dong New District, Shanghai, China. I got an phone call from the responsible judge on 2:00PM Beijing time, May 28. The first trial time was delayed by court. We have to wait for new schedule. Update on 11:38pm, July 31st: Latest subpoena arrived that the first trial is scheduled 9:00 pm, August 3rd in same place. There is no promised time deadline from the court. Please take your ID card and arrive at the gate of court before 10 minutes of the trial. If you have other problems, please contact me at +86 135 6409 6137(This phone stoped now Aug.28,2007). This is a temporary mobile phone which is available only for this lawsuit. Don't call it for other purpose.
The website, RealCIX, introduces our personal finance software. It is located in the United States. Not long ago, we made our software freely redistributable with the GNU General Public License, the GNU GPL.
You can see our intent on http://sourceforge.net/projects/realcix. (The old site, http://www.realcix.com/, has not yet been updated.)
Neither site should offend anyone in this planet. We want to update http://www.realcix.com/ but are located in China. We cannot access that site easily. Only with special routing technology can we update it at all - and transfers are slow and full of error.
Outside of China, people have no trouble looking at the site. From inside China, people can only see it when they use special routing technology. (Please remember, as I write this, that http://www.realcix.com/ has not yet been updated. To see the intended update, look at http://sourceforge.net/projects/realcix.)
From the very beginning, I knew about the Great Chinese Firewall - and ignored it. Friends persuaded me to obtain a new domain name and a new host. I did not know that someday that would hurt me. Now it has. I am hindered in accessing and updating http://www.realcix.com/.
Many would give up. The Americans have an expression, "You can't fight city hall", meaning you cannot fight a government or a government controlled monster.
However, I believe that with the help of today's internet, the morality of public community, I can win this case. I can even make a contribution to improve Chinese democracy. My plan is to raise a lawsuit and try to get support from both domestic and international community.
There are several points I would like to make clear:
  • China Telecom, whom I am suing. Nobody knows officially who is responsible for the Great Chinese Firewall and nobody can help. And even if we did learn, according to Chinese law, I would most likely lack any direct legal relationship. So I would not be able to sue it.
    However, I am a customer of China Telecom. This relationship can be demonstrated by my contract and by the bills I pay monthly. Using their equipment, I fail to access a website. A trace says the problem is inside them.
  • My Purpose. China Telecom has done more than simply prevent me from accessing my own web site. It has done that. In addition, and more to the point, it has violated my human right to know truth or approaches to truth. Unfortunately, there is no statement about truth in the Chinese Constitution. And there is no law.
    I can only claim that China Telecom is in a breach of contract. The problem is their responsibility. According to the contract, China Telecom should solve the problem or explain why it cannot be solved.
  • Proof. It is an extremely difficult case. Regarding the reason http://www.realcix.com/ is blocked - China Telecom has not provided me with anything written. It has not provided any documents that a court can acknowledge.
    I went to a Shanghai notarization office. In China, those offices are more or less a branch of Government. Notarization also provides a public service and earns money. It cost me a total of 2,000 CNY, 1,000 for the computer operation, 1,000 for the notarization letter posted to China Telecom office.
    Two notaries and I went through several steps to access http://www.realcix.com/ with IE (Internet Explorer).
    We used the notaries' hardware and software, as they are a 3rd party. (China Telecom and I are 1st and 2nd parties. The notaries' machine has only Windows and IE installed.)
    Without any proxy, IE showed a business advertisement page in the main part of screen and there was a short message in its upper right corner that said http://www.realcix.com/ could not be accessed.
    With a proxy located outside of China, the home page of http://www.realcix.com/ was displayed. That demonstrates that http://www.realcix.com/ was available. A screen copy of the command "tracert www.realcix.com" shows that the problem is a router inside China Telecom. (See the bottom of this article, the last scaned image.)
    Note: I am lucky that proxy was available when we saw the notary. The internet is always changing and even a network expert may have trouble.
    Special routing software may be used, too, but neither notary would accept mine for fear that I was cheating.
  • Beyond this case. Can we improve the Chinese Constitution to contain a statement that the government should protect the human right to know the truth or approaches to the truth?
    If censorship is unavoidable, how it can be monitored and made transparent? With monitoring and transparency, errors can be corrected. Certainly, China Telecom should have an official (and helpful) answer. With one, I could learn why I am blocked and to whom I can ask in order to recover access from China to my website.
Here are scanned pages from the public notarization which was held on March 9th, 2007 in the office of Pu Dong, a public notary in Shanghai, China.
The text in these scanned images is in Chinese. In some browsers, an image will show only a single vertical bar. In that case, copy the underlying link, paste it to an address bar and type 'enter'. Then you should be able to see.
  1. The first image is page 1 of the notarized text. It describes the steps taken.
  2. The second image is page 2 of the notarized text.
  3. The 3rd image is the screen copy of IE accessing http://www.realcix.com/ without a proxy. The result screen displayed a business advertisement page with only a short message of "the site you are accessing is not reachable." in the upper right corner. Hundreds of millions of Chinese people are limited in what they may seek.
  4. The 4th image is the screen copy of setting a proxy outside of China for IE. If this proxy is set, IE may gain access to http://www.realcix.com/. If IE succeeded, we will know that we had been restricted without proxy.
  5. This is the real page of http://www.realcix.com/. Considering the thousands sites blocked in China, for example, http://www.wikipedia.org/, hundreds of millions of Chinese are limited in what they may seek.
  6. The route trace demonstrates that the router is inside China Telecom.
Special thanks to Robert J. Chassell. I don't think that I could explain things clearly in English without his help. Thanks to Richard Stallman. Without his support, I would have given up my efforts on this lawsuit. Thanks Bill Xu, who cared and who gave a unique view on this event. And thanks to my wife, Wei Yi Lu, and to my son, Du Xing Ran. I know both you will support me to protect our rights by law. And last, I want to give a special thanks to the Chinese Government. I could not raise this lawsuit without today's peaceful environment in China.
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