The Chinese Communist Party operates out of a vast walled-off compound, known as Zhongnanhai, near Beijing’s Forbidden City. It is here that party leaders oversee the Great Firewall – China’s 24-hour control of the Internet.
Some 5,900 miles away, in a cottage in Berkeley, Calif., the staff of China Digital Times tries to poke holes in the Great Firewall. Every day, they collect, translate and publish many of the censorship directives the party sends to state media. They aggregate breaking news deemed “sensitive” by China’s rulers and highlight the codewords Chinese people invent to get around the censors.
“There is no way you could take all these critical voices and party directives and put them together on one website in China. It would be taken down immediately,” said Xiao Qiang, chief editor of China Digital Times and an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “But outside the Great Firewall you can do that. And that is what we do.”