Google Threatens to Leave China: Sometimes you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug...

windshield.jpgNobody that has ever met me, or even heard about me, has ever called me a panda hugger, which according to wiktionary is a Western political activist or official who supports Communist Chinese policies. 

In fact, when acting in our capacity as attorneys for some of our clients, we have been deported for a few days.  Given that we have a very smart group of Chinese nationals working in our offices, that last forced exit was limited to only a few days in Hong Kong.  And given that a few days of holiday with the family is not a bad thing...no harm, no foul.

But the recent series of events where the gents at Google decided to call in Madam Secretary Hillary Clinton to step into the Google vs China debate, I was spurned into commenting.  Now, I am not here to tell you that the Chinese internet is open in the same way as it is in the USA, but I can tell you that trying to call Beijing out on the carpet is no way to win friends and influence people

Also, as it is perfectly legal to purchase a virtual private network ("VPN") from here inside China, one can, and has always been able to, get around what is known as the Great Firewall or Golden Shield Project -- depending on which name you like better.  This site is written by foreigners from inside of China and lots of unflattering things have been posted but there are no storm troopers banging on my door in the middle of the night.

In fact, in all the years we have lived here there seem to be only three things that you can not say here.  (1)  You can not say that the Government is not in control, with whether they are or not being an entirely different matter.  (2)  You can not say you support Taiwanese independence.  And (3) You can not say that an independent Tibet should be run by the Dalia Lama.  That's it.

And now, I'd like to look at a few things that we can not say in the USA and have not been able to say in the USA.  Here we'll mention a few that were prohibited speech in the USA, even before there was a Homeland Security, which can be argued to have changed the rules even further in the wrong direction.

Ok, what can't you say in the USA?  (1)  You can not yell fire in a crowded theatre.  And (2) You can not utter words about wanting to physically injure the President.  As such, there are some limitations on free speech even in the USA.

In the words of US Supreme Court Justice Holmes in the Schenck case." The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent."  

As current law in the USA on the subject, Brandenburg v. Ohio limited the scope of banned speech from Justice Holmes comments in Schenck to "that which would be directed to and likely to incite imminent lawless action."  And China draws the lines pretty much in the same way using just about the same standard. 

But, there are just too many people here with substantially different cultural views than ours to impose a US centric view of what imminent lawless action means here.  So, if you do not live here then you can not understand intimately what has the ability to incite imminent lawless action, which does happen here occasionally.  Of course, there also is a slightly different outcome because there are almost five times more of them occupying the same area as there are of us in the USA, and that should be respected too, in my view.

Google threats are going to make about as much impact as a few bugs on the windshield here.  We live in a multicultural world and the faster that we all get used to that idea, the better off we all might be.  Especailly when it is explicitly allowed to get access to anything you want from here anyway...

Let China grow up on it's own terms, damnit.  It is their country not ours.