above question was first asked and partially answered in
Issue 34 (November
2002), in the Web Line column. The following analysis “from the inside”
clinches the argument. The author Michael LaRocca and his wife Jan Bond
are Bikwil subscribers who teach in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province,
is Bikwil banned in China, but I am punished every time I try to
Let me explain.
mentioned in Bikwil 34, the
New York Times website is
inaccessible from China. But a friend emailed me a rather informative
article from that newspaper that explains how we are punished in China.
Any site we try to access after trying to access a banned site loads
incredibly slowly and often times out. This effect lasts for about five
minutes. I suspect that Chinese government computers somewhere are
busily gathering those URLs as well. Those URLs are probably filed for
this is how they learned of sites that were being used instead of Google
when Google was banned. Google was banned because of its cache feature.
Google returned about a week later, but without the cache feature.
problem with the cache feature, which people Down Under can use, is that
it stores the content of every site that comes up in a Google search.
This includes banned sites such as Falun Gong, Taiwanese independence,
and Bikwil. Thus I could have gone to Google, searched for
Bikwil, and viewed the cached copy of this forbidden content.
a number of sites that receive their results from Google and include the
cache feature. Comet Search comes to
mind. It is now banned in China. Others that are part of the Google
family, such as Google.ICQ.com, are still live but without the caching
34 also mentioned that AltaVista has been banned. I suspect this is
permanent, but that nobody really misses it. I quit using AltaVista long
before it was banned because its results are often irrelevant. The ban
annoyed me slightly because I was trying to list my “novelist” site on
AltaVista, so I found a Search Engine Submission service to do it for
me. Try running an AltaVista search for “Michael LaRocca” and you should
be bombarded with my fiction. None of which is banned, I might add. At
least not yet.
reason that AltaVista was banned is because of its ability to translate
websites into other languages. Why is that a problem? Well, let’s say
you have the URL of a banned site such as Bikwil. You go to AltaVista
and tell it to translate this site from German to English, for example.
Of course the site isn’t in German. It doesn’t matter. You will be able
to view the “translated” Bikwil in English, and it’s banned! So
AltaVista is out. We can NOT have people viewing that nasty ole
that Google now has a translation feature as well. I wonder if it works
in China. And if so, I wonder how long that'll be the case. It won’t
translate PDF files, the significance of which I'll explain below, but
offering the ability to “translate” HTML files is a slippery slope as
far as China is concerned.
however, still visit my writer site
http://freereads.topcities.com/indexspanish.html. It has a link to
Translate.com. I can type Bikwil’s URL into there and see it
“translated” from “Spanish” to “English”. Once the Chinese government
discovers that trick, they’ll close the loophole. Don’t tell them about
of sites I’ve written, one of them was banned. I teach English here in
China, so I wrote an educational site for my students. Whatever they
asked for, they got. Ways to learn English, my family tree and life
history, and photos I’ve taken here in China. Pretty harmless stuff,
students asked for a link to VOA, Voice Of America, to help them improve
their English. That’s been banned over here. I did a bit of research,
and I found a site that received its news from VOA and reprinted it. I
linked to that site. This action may have gotten me banned in China.
Or perhaps it was the fact that I linked to other news sites which
weren’t banned at the time, but which were banned later. CNN, BBC, Miami
Herald, Washington Post, New York Times. I chose these sites because
they were listed in my students’ textbooks. But they're banned, and I am
guilty by association. Maybe that’s what got me banned.
discovering this, I got myself a new URL. I uploaded the old site to the
new site, minus the possibly offensive links. The new site is at
http://michaeljan.topcities.com/. Then I had a friend back in the US
change the old website so it would forward all visitors to the new
website. To date, I haven’t been banned for doing this. Visit the site
if you want. It's not nearly so offensive as the infamous Bikwil 10,
which I’ve read by proxy.
I have a
neighbor who is a real computer expert. We were talking about banned
websites in general, not Bikwil in particular, when he suggested
that maybe some of the sites we think are banned really aren’t. Maybe
China’s computers are just using out-of-date DNS tables, or no DNS
tables at all. As I’ve noticed that I can never access any new site I
read about, he had my interest.
Internet “hub” is located in a major city, usually on a campus. When I
log onto the Internet and try to visit Bikwil’s web site, my
request is routed up the road to China Telecom in Hangzhou, then from
there to a campus in Shanghai, and then probably to Beijing and then to
Sydney or Melbourne. The DNS table translates the address (http://www.bikwil.com)
into a series of numbers. Without those numbers, my request can’t be
wondered, can I get into Bikwil with the DNS numbers?
not. You are banned! Blocked! Verboten! You naughty Bikwil
people! You’re probably hiding the leader of Falun Gong AND bin Laden in
your basement! And that Chen Shui Bin guy too! You shall be punished for
existing, and I shall be punished for knowing about it.
But again, I’ve read the infamous Bikwil 10. Wagner!
34 mentioned proxy servers. I’m able to access Bikwil’s site
through a number of proxy servers, but it’s painfully slow. Two to five
minutes per article, and you’ve published a lot of articles over the
years. What I wanted was to snatch the entire Bikwil 10 PDF file
in one shot, so that I could read it at my leisure. This led to a new
proxy servers are limited in their bandwidth. Meaning, graphics are
stripped and large files are inaccessible. Such as the infamous
Bikwil 10 PDF. 622 KB. Now I could’ve asked the editor to email it
to me, and of course he would have. He’s been snail-mailing me the
magazine, and China Post has been letting him do it. But darnit there
was a principle involved here! I wanted to get the Bikwil 10 PDF
Of the 27
proxy servers I tried, 2 were successful. I won’t name them because you
don't need them, and there’s no reason to tell the Chinese government
who they are. But they're there. So HA!
the Miami Herald has been blocked since before I arrived here in
February 2002. Why is this important? It means I can't read Dave Barry's
humorous column. I told Dave that it’s all his fault, and that Beijing
fears he'll write a scathing expose about the condition of China’s
the China Daily has written many pages about the deplorable state
of China’s toilets, and about how they plan to upgrade them before the
2008 Olympics. They’ve built some new five-star toilets, and are rating
the existing toilets. I don’t even want to think about what a one-star
Chinese toilet would be like.
say it’d stink, but I’m above such bad puns.)
Dave Barry hasn’t seen fit to answer me. Or perhaps he did through his
column, which I can’t access without the nightmare of a super-slow proxy
server. I used to read him via Google cache, only one month behind, but
I can’t do that now.
I have no idea why Bikwil has been banned in China. But I know
that if I search for it on Google, that’s now part of Bikwil’s
website description. “Banned in China.” And hey, anyone who’s been
banned in China can’t be all bad. If they ban me (not my website) in
China, I’ll probably come on over to Australia and log onto Bikwil’s
website every day I’m there.