A judge in Jianshi county, Hubei province, is suing one of the country's largest information portals after it shut down his blog for comments he posted accusing the Party School of the Communist Party of China (CPC) of awarding him an unrecognized diploma.
Huang Zhijia, 37, a judge with the people's court of Jianshi's Guandian township, submitted a written petition to Beijing's Haidian district court last Sunday. It requires Beijing-based and NASDAQ-listed Sina.com to stop "violating his copyright", lift the block on his articles, post an apology on its homepage and compensate him 10,000 yuan ($1,462) for losses.
"Access to my blog entries was blocked from late May. Dozens of my complaints to the company's customer service department only drew a simple e-mail saying the content of my blogs was sensitive. It refused to recover the text," Huang said.
A customer service representative from Sina said yesterday that, like other providers, the company works with the State public security body to screen content related to violence, pornography and "radical political comments".
"Huang did not give us his phone number. Our contents control staff examine blog samples and wipe out those which violate regulations," said the consultant, who did not want to be named.
He also refused to provide more detail about Sina's censorship of Huang's blog and about the website's censorship mechanism in general, saying only the affected bloggers can obtain the information.
Huang said Sina must have considered an article he published last October about the Party School of the Central Committee of CPC to be sensitive, along with one he wrote in May of 2007 about the Party School of the Hubei Provincial Committee of the CPC.
Party schools of provincial committees and central committees are colleges that train intermediate-to-senior Party cadres and teach political theory in China.
Huang graduated from the Party school in Hubei in 2001 with an undergraduate degree in law. However, he was told in 2006 that a degree holder from a Party school was not qualified to sit the State judicial exam.
Huang said recruitment information that said Party schools "students can enjoy equal academic status with national civilian education" was deceptive.
Huang said Caijing, Southern Weekly and several other media organizations reported his lawsuit extensively in 2007. The issue should not be regarded as being politically sensitive because of the widespread coverage, he said.
The judge, who has been carrying out his judicial duties as normal, vowed to continue his blogging by posting to other websites and channels to "fight for the rights of other Party school graduates".
"Sina's action had violated a blogger's right to free speech and copyright in Huang's case, even though online users allow Sina to delete whatever content it deems inappropriate once they accept the terms and conditions of its use," lawyer Huang Aihua told China Daily.
The portal should also allow the proper legal authorities to decide what is appropriate or not for the online community in such cases, he said.