With the 2008 Olympic games about to start, China has finally lifted some internet restrictions that had been previously placed on foreign media and human right websites. Unfortunately, the world has no guarantee that these relaxed rules will continue once the Olympic ceremonies and sporting events have started.
President Hu Jintao gave a rare press conference to foreign journalists this week issuing the following statement, "Of course, we also hope that during their coverage foreign reporters will follow and abide by Chinese laws and regulations." This warning is what has many officials and journalists worried that their freedom to report the truth may be revoked if Chinese officials decide what they are publishing is false. Under Chinese rules, those acting as journalists agree to "observe journalistic ethics" and to not "distort facts, fabricate rumors, or carry out news coverage by foul means." Journalist also agree to not "engage in activities which are incompatible with unity or community and public interests."
Citing information received anonymously from hotels stating that officials will be monitoring all of their guests, US Senators as well as security experts are urging all travelers to encrypt their data and telling journalists to use clean computers and equipment to protect themselves as well as their sources.
Preparing for the worst, the Global Internet Freedom Consortium has stated that their anti-censorship software is available and ready to use for any journalist and tourist during the Olympics. This software, which is easily downloaded to a hard drive or USB drive, can be used if China goes back on their word and begins to block internet sites and words they consider "dangerous". Currently almost one million users worldwide are using these GIFC tools on a regular basis.
China has a history of "deleting" events from it's history, such as the removal of the actual events of Tiananmen Square from Google.cn and many worry that those covering the events at the Olympics will eventually have their work subjected to the same censorship. Unfortunately, only time will tell if China will hold up their end of the bargain as the world watches.