In the fall of 2011, a friend and I got on to discussing Tibet. “Do you know,” he said, “that Tibetans are setting fire to themselves?”
I had spent from 2005 to 2008 in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, but I had never heard of acts of self-immolation. My friend filled me in on the ghastly details, and then added, “Everyone beyond the wall knows this. A writer who cares about China, but who doesn’t go over the wall, suffers from a moral deficiency. You shouldn’t let a wall decide what you know.”
When my friend said “beyond the wall,” he was referring to the notorious Great Firewall of China, which since around 1998 has been a government project to screen and block Internet content. Seventeen years on, the firewall is a frustrating feature of life that splinters the Chinese world into two.
One world stands for free information and the exchange of ideas, the other for censoring and monitoring. The wall fences in a Chinese information prison where ignorance fosters ideologies of hatred and aggression. If the firewall exists indefinitely, China will eventually revert to what it once was: a sealed off, narrow-minded, belligerent, rogue state.
That day back in 2011, my friend helped me install virtual private network software — what we refer to as a “ladder” — which allows users to get over the firewall. Once my ladder was set up, I could enter the web without restrictions. Thus, I started my life as a firewall … [Source]