China's Singing Censors Cause a Stir Online

AP Images/Invision
Patriotic choirs are popular in China

"The China Dream is uplifting China" runs the rousing anthem.

A stirring online video of a chorus of China's cybercensors singing a song called "The Spirit of Cyberspace" about how noble and great their job is has caused an online sensation in China.

At a Lunar New Year Internet Media Gala to celebrate the Chinese New Year this week (Thurs., Feb. 19), a choir from the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) sang a song about telling the world how "the China Dream is uplifting China."

The lyrics celebrate China as an "Internet superpower," telling of its "glorious dreams of the web" and how the CAC's mission is to transform "the global village into the most beautiful landscape."

The CAC runs what is known colloquially as the "Great Firewall of China," one of the world's most sophisticated online censorship mechanisms, which are used to keep a tight grip on politically suspect content as well as pornography and other "illegal information."

The country is home to 649 million web users, and the government is keen to harness the commercial freedoms the online world offers, especially in the e-commerce sector. But the CAC keeps an eagle eye out for anything that seems to challenge the ruling Communist Party.

Things have become even tougher since Xi Jinping became president in early 2013.

Overseas services such as Google, Twitter and YouTube are banned.

Recent weeks have seen virtual private networks (VPN), which allow people to get around online censorship of websites, come under pressure, while 133 accounts on the WeChat social network were shut down for "distorting history."

The song opens telling of who Internet watchdogs devotedly keep watch over the Web every day, taking up their mission as the sun rises in the East, innovating constantly – something the VPN users will be painfully aware of – and "united by the strength of all living things" before triumphantly celebrating China as "an Internet power."

The CAC is run by Lu Wei, who recently visited Facebook, which has been blocked in China since 2009.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg reportedly left a copy of a book of speeches by President Xi, The Governance of China, lying around on his desk at the HQ in California, although Lu never revealed if it made any impression on him.

Basically new measures could turn its domestic networks from an Internet into an "intranet," according to a recent survey by the European Chamber of Commerce.

The song is apparently disappearing from the web, although it is still available, for reasons that will presumably remain unexplained, unless the CAC tells us why.