For John, BLUF: Some people just can't take a joke. Nothing to see here; just move along.
Another timely item from a week ago. Reporter Sim Chi Yin, writing for The New York Times, tells us "A German's Video Likens Mao to Hitler, and China Wants Him Punished". Herr "Christoph Rehage's comparison of Mao to Hitler in a YouTube video prompted warnings that he could be punished under Chinese law."
When Christoph Rehage, a German writer and online satirist on Chinese affairs, joked on Weibo in July that the Communist hero Lei Feng and the female warrior Mulan could have a great baby together, reaction from some quarters was swift.While some may shrug their shoulders, thinking that Mr Rehage is safe in Germany, in fact it means all of us are a little less safe. The Chinese continue to assert that national sovereignty should apply to cyber space. On the other hand, this is not a view that allows for two way thinking and acting.
Mr. Rehage said he received death threats from Chinese who viewed his comments as a slur against cultural heroes. Sina shut his Weibo account, which he said had about 100,000 followers.
"It was a very tasteless joke that I made," Mr. Rehage conceded by telephone from Germany, where he has returned after studying Chinese and cinematography in Beijing.
But when Mr. Rehage called Mao Zedong "China's Hitler" in a YouTube video in December, he said, reaction became "ridiculous."
Mr. Rehage noted that both Mao and Hitler were responsible for the deaths of millions.
An influential Communist Party website called for him to be punished under Chinese law, despite the fact that Mr. Rehage lives in Hamburg. Coupled with events like the recent disappearances of five people connected to a Hong Kong publisher of books critical of Beijing, the episode has raised questions about China's reach across borders.
As one person noted:
The Chinese effort to shift administration of the Internet from ICANN (the Internet Corporation for the Assignment of Names and Numbers, essentially the administrator of the Internet) to the International Telecommunications Union is the larger policy step that is designed to prevent precisely this sort of activity. Our conceding to this effort enables the Chinese (and Russians and others), in a way that will both ultimately vitiate the vitality of the Internet AND leave us arguably more vulnerable to all sorts of both obnoxious and threatening behavior.And I don't think the current Administration understand this.
The Internet is, on the one hand, robust, but on the other hand it is a delicate flower.
Regards — Cliff