Asia Briefing: Father of the Great Firewall retires

Online community unlikely to mourn departure of orchestrator of internet block on top western sites

Fang Binxing has stepped down as  president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications

Fang Binxing has stepped down as president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications

 

Last week saw the retirement of Fang Binxing, the father of the “Great Firewall of China”, as president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.

His departure is unlikely to be widely mourned by China’s online citizenry, many of whom hate him for introducing the loathed system of controls.

The Great Firewall system he designed blocks 600 million internet users from accessing some of the world’s most popular websites in China, including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, while it also keeps a lid on the New York Times and Bloomberg.

The program was adopted by Chinese authorities in 1998 and came online around 2003.

The firewall blocks out keywords, such as Tibet and the Dalai Lama, and it means that internet access in mainland China can often be painfully slow when compared to neighbouring countries.

The system aims to block access to “inappropriate” online content. Defining “inappropriate” is the reason he became such a controversial figure. While it kept the lid on pornography and online gambling, it also blocked content the government didn’t like, especially politically sensitive news.

“A serious illness has made me unable to stay up working late into nights any longer. I couldn’t shoulder the dual responsibilities of doing research and administration like I did before,” he told an audience of graduates in June, and his retirement came into effect last week.

Local reports say Mr Fang (53) has cancer.

He had become a detested figure in China. When he opened a Weibo microblog on Sina. com a couple of years back, nearly 10,000 webizens had left messages within three hours, most of them lambasting him for messing up web access for them.

In 2011, a disgruntled student threw a shoe at him during a lecture at Wuhan University.

In an interview with the Global Times, Fang confessed to having signed up to six virtual private networks that he uses to access some of the websites he had originally helped block.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.