Surfing Through China

How an idea spread and grew on the Internet.
July 4 1998 3:30 AM

Surfing Through China

The Clinton trip, reflected by the Web.

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Nobody invited me to tag along on the 1,000-person entourage. I didn't spend my Friday afternoon ogling ancient terra cotta warriors or my Sunday gallivanting around Beijing's Forbidden City. But inspired by the grand tradition of foreign correspondent hackery, I won't be stopped from reporting on Clinton's trip to China. Here's the first of a series of Internet dispatches--on Internet coverage--of the China story.

The weekend's attention was fixed on Clinton's controversial official welcome in Tiananmen Square. While the Web address www.tiananmensquare.com has not yet been claimed, other sites chronicle the massacre with bloody photos and interactive tours. Coverage of the event by the People's Daily, the Chinese Communist Party's voice, stresses "bilateral" cooperation without delving into Tiananmen's human rights issues: "To accelerate their move toward the goal of establishing a constructive strategic partnership between the two countries, they [Clinton and Jiang] decided that they would refrain from targeting their strategic nuclear weapons against each other." Whew!

Clinton roused Peking University with a speech advocating human rights and did a Q & A with its students. The university's Web site is a bit of a disappointment, being more obsessed with the school's 1998 centennial than with the real world.

Who's ever heard of human rights? Well, the Chinese Embassy has--there's a whole page of links to government propaganda on the subject, including a diatribe titled "A Look at the U.S. Human Rights Record."

Anumber of human rights organizations paint the real, less rosy picture. Human Rights in China, a New York-based group started by Chinese academics, offers a comprehensive site with links to a site for Wang Dan, the Tiananmen Square activist who was released from a long stint in prison only this spring. The site links to his speeches and the petition that helped set him free, as well as to his June 4 statement on the ninth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. For a daily critique of China's media coverage, turn to the independent media watchdog section of Inside China Today.

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