29.03.2011
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“First EU-China bridge of friendship blocked”

BEIJING – The European Students’ Union (ESU) participated in the opening ceremony of the EU-China Year of Youth, from 21 to 28 February, which formally opened the EU-China Year of Youth and which aims to ‘build bridges of friendship’ between youth organisations from China and the EU. However, internet restrictions in China on social media and other website pages made and will make it difficult to actually do this.

Bert Vandenkendelaere, Chairperson of ESU, said: “It is very difficult to build bridges of friendship if we have to find out that the ESU website is not accessible for Chinese students. I believe that the EU-China Year of Youth has to be an opportunity for the EU and its leaders to press for more internet freedom for Chinese students.”

During the meeting, which was held in Beijing and Guiyang, ESU met with leaders from the All-China Student Federation, and discussed the possibility of more dialogue between the two organisations. Vandenkendelaere : “Although the differences between the priorities and the organisational structure of both our organisations are obvious, it would be beneficial to find common points of interest.”

Chinese fears
The youth delegates furthermore proposed to connect and network through the social network site Linkedin (as Facebook is not available in China), for a continued dialogue after the opening ceremony. However, a few days later it was announced that the Chinese government had blocked the use of Linkedin, supposedly because it feared that social networks could cause a same uprising as in Egypt and Tunisia.

Vandenkendelaere  continued: “We have learnt that Linkedin has now been unblocked again, but it remains sad that one of the first bridges of friendship that were proposed by the joint youth was immediately blocked and that media and internet censorship in the country are still this severe”. According to Vandenkendelaere, this strengthens ESU’s fear that the relations between ESU and the All-China Student Federation will be severely controlled and limited which will prevent the two organisations from starting up an open and constructive dialogue for a stronger relationship between the two groups.

Published: 31 March 2011

END

For more information, please contact:

Bert Vandenkendelaere, ESU Chairperson: +32473669892 or Bert@esu-online.org
Marianne Slegers, ESU Communications Manager: +32473669894 or Marianne@esu-online.org

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