China's huge censorship apparatus is getting bigger, and stronger
Experts warn that they may be running out of "technical solutions" in the fight against the censors
Activists at home and abroad have been targeted by police and government-linked hackers
In April, the police came for Li Gang.
It was a visit he had been dreading for almost six months, since he began working on a tool to help Chinese Internet users get around the vast censorship apparatus known as the Great Firewall.
Crowded inside his apartment in a northern Chinese city, Li says the officers ordered him to stop work on the tool and remove all traces of it from the web.
He did what they said, posting a message online to explain why he was taking the tool down. He says the police came again and ordered him to delete the message.
Li Gang is a pseudonym.
He has asked that his real name not be used, out of fear of arrest, because he says he was the latest target of an ongoing crackdown by China’s reinvigorated Internet censors, who, activists say, have dramatically ramped up their war on the open web in the past year, shutting down tools that enable people to access blocked content and pressuring or threatening their developers, both in an out of the country.
“It’s getting worse and worse, more and more websites have been blocked,” Li told CNN.
Since China began controlling its citizens’ Internet access in the mid-1990s, the censors have been engaged in an arms race with activists and developers to block tools that helped people jump over the Firewall and close loopholes that popped up.