New regulations that require bars, restaurants, hotels and bookstores to install costly Web monitoring software are prompting many businesses to cut Internet access and sending a chill through the capital’s game-playing, Web-grazing literati who have come to expect free Wi-Fi with their lattes and green tea.
The software, which costs businesses about $3,100, provides public security officials the identities of those logging on to the wireless service of a restaurant, cafe or private school and monitors their Web activity. Those who ignore the regulation and provide unfettered access face a $2,300 fine and the possible revocation of their business license.
The new measures are supposedly meant to allow the Chinese authorities to crackdown on crime, but will instead allow the Communist government to suppress freedom more easily. This renewed crackdown is apparently in response to the Arab Spring, which has been a poignant reminder to the Chinese government that repressed people eventually seek freedom.
The renewed crackdown is, in a way, a tacit admission of guilt, or at least a self-acknowledgment that the way the Chinese govern is similar to the way Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad governs (and the way Hosni Mubarak governed Egyptians, etc.), and that the way the Chinese people are treated by their government is similar to the way the Syrians are treated by theirs. But fortunately, as the Times reports, there are Chinese who are not interested in furthering the surveillance state:
One bookstore owner said she had already disconnected the shop’s free Wi-Fi, and not for monetary reasons. “I refuse to be part of an Orwellian surveillance system that forces my customers to disclose their identity to a government that wants to monitor how they use the Internet,” said the woman, who feared that disclosing her name or that of her shop would bring unwanted attention from the authorities.