Internet prods Asia to open up: "in China, where the government has mounted a huge effort to filter Internet content. The "Great Firewall of China" is manned by at least 30,000 censors who blocked as many as 50,000 websites in the first half of 2002, according to a US State Department report on China's human rights. Just this week, Beijing introduced stringent penalties against purveyors of Internet pornography, including life imprisonment for those behind major sites that receive more than 250,000 hits. "Pornographic" is left undefined. ..
China's massive firewall is already showing cracks under the weight of the Internet's expansion. The pressure has come from innumerable sources, including an onslaught of weblogs, open-source directories, and projects like Wikipedia, an "open-content" encyclopedia. Five years ago in China, most Western newspaper websites were blocked from viewing. Today, the Chinese censors who watch the Internet target more specific sites - chat forums on ultrasensitive topics like Tibetan liberation and the Falun Gong religious movement.
So while the average Chinese still can't walk into an Internet cafe in Ningbo and pull up the homepage of the Taiwan government, he can read The New York Times. Even some sensitive topics, surprisingly, are readily available in China. A quick browse through Wikipedia's Chinese-language version for the "June 4, Tiananmen" entry offers a broad look at the Democracy movement of 1989 and its violent end. Without using any special software or proxy servers, a Chinese web user can view the famed photo of a lone man facing down tanks outside the square 15 years ago in Beijing. ..
Despite its firewall efforts, the Chinese government is not stopping people from buying PCs or signing up for cheap Internet access. The country has an estimated 87 million Internet users this year, nearly four times the number in 2000, according to the data website www.internetworldstats.com." Of the world's internet users, 32.1% are now estimated to be Asian, 28.1% European, and 27.9% North American.