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When China's Censor-In-Chief Couldn't Get Around His Own Great Firewall

At Google China's headquarters
At Google China's headquarters

HARBIN — Fang Binxing, the architect of China's internet censorship system, known as the Great Firewall, has run head-on into his own freedom-curbing creation.

On a visit to his alma mater, the Harbin Institute of Technology, Fang gave a speech this week entitled "Defining Internet Sphere Security." But as he began to lay out his defense of China's system for controlling the Internet, the government's top digital censor tried to log on to a North Korean website to demonstrate the necessity to defend Chinese online users. Alas, the projection screen showed that the URL was blocked, hitting the firewall he himself had designed, the Taiwan-based United Daily News reports.

Fang was forced to log on to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to bypass the wall in order to continue his presentation. But it got worse. As he had trouble using the VPN, Fang thought the best way to find the North Korean site would be to track it down on social media. But he seemed to forget that Twitter and Facebook are blocked by the firewall. A last stab at Google? Blocked as well. In desperation, Fang finally ended up using Baidu, China's largest search engine … to show a screenshot of a Google page.

United Daily News notes that the "Father of the firewall," as Fang is nicknamed, hit the wall he'd built and was incapable of breaking through it, setting off much online Chinese schadenfreude. "This is what you call slapping yourself in the face," one blogger quipped. Another said the humiliating presentation was the inevitable result of "serving as a flunkey to the dictator."

It's not the first time that Fang Binxing has been targeted. At a speech at Wuhan University students four years ago, students threw eggs and shoes at him. Thanks to his creation, not only are major Western portals and social media blocked, but so are many top news sources, like the BBC, The New York Times, Reuters, and all Taiwanese newspapers including United Daily News.

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