China's Famous Blind Dissident Explains Why The 'Great Chinese Firewall' Is Actually Easily Breached

Chen Guangcheng

They know more than we think.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ian Johnson recently talked to Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng for the New York Review, and the headline is that Chinese society remains incredibly fragile — because the Chinese remain well-informed, despite government efforts to prevent them from being so.

“…this is why the officials are so afraid—because they know the true extent of the problem. They are terribly afraid of people organising. It’s very delicate in the countryside now. This is why they constantly resort to detentions and so on. They don’t even try to find an excuse, they just do it—they are that scared.”

We also learn about the effectiveness of the “Great Chinese Firewall” — or lack thereof — and how the West is missing a big opportunity to reach ordinary Chinese.

I think they can jump over that wall more easily than I jumped over my wall! Right now that isn’t the problem. The problem is that many ordinary Chinese can’t get online. Right now, the percentage of Chinese with cell phones is high but in the countryside Internet access is relatively low. So I think a lot of these foreign broadcasters are wrong to stop broadcasting in shortwave to China. In the past, we listened regularly to Deutsche Welle, Radio Canada International, and of course Voice of America. But countries are planning to scale back or even cut these services. This shows that these people don’t understand the situation in the countryside in China.”

Read Johnson’s full interview on

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