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Chinese Cyber-Activists Lend Support to Democracy Activists in Iran

Printer Friendly VersionPrinter Friendly VersionSend to a FriendSend to a FriendCyber activists in China are throwing their support behind opposition protesters in Iran. The issue is a sensitive one, however, as those supporting protesters in Iran fear they could run afoul of Chinese authorities. More than 5,600 kilometers separate China's capital, Beijing, from Tehran, the capital of Iran. But a violent demonstration in late December in Tehran involving thousands of Iranian protesters was enough to prompt Chinese activists to register the Internet domain name "CN4Iran-dot-org" (CN4IRAN.org) - or China for Iran. The Web site's slogan is "We are watching you, we are supporting you. Go, our great Iranian friends, go!" A picture on the site shows a clenched fist against a red and green background. CN4Iran-dot-org is a so-called mirror Web site that automatically receives and posts most of the recent "tweets" related to Iran. Tweets are brief messages sent via the social networking site, Twitter, and can originate from anywhere in the world. Twitter is blocked in China, but Chinese citizens can access it through Internet proxies. One of the site's organizers refused a phone interview request, but communicated with VOA via e-mail. The cyber-activist says China and Iran have things in common, especially in terms of Web censorship. He says he feels there are people in China who are very interested in Iran and other countries they feel are not free. Prominent artist Ai Weiwei is one Chinese who has been closely following developments in Iran. He says he was especially busy on-line in the early morning hours of December 28, as the clashes were occurring in Tehran. Ai says he was constantly typing that night and sent countless tweets. He says he thinks the Iranians must have found it so strange, and wondered who is Ai Weiwei? Earlier this week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu was asked whether the government was aware of Chinese cyber-activists' support for Iranian protesters. Jiang says China hopes to see Iranian society remain united and stable, but she made no specific reference to the Chinese Web site. The organizer for CN4Iran says, in his words, "anyone would be afraid of getting in trouble" with Chinese authorities. But he says he thinks what activists like him do is "not hypersensitive" or illegal. He points out that authorities have their own language and ways of communicating, while, ordinary people have their own. China tries to limit access to many Internet sites, including those of many foreign news organizations, such as VOA. In addition, the government tracks Internet activity and steps in to block sites it perceives as fostering unrest or subversion. On Thursday, the CN4IRAN site is still accessible, without a proxy, in the Chinese capital.