Tech 'tips' for Beijing visitors

It looks like foreign tourists are avoiding Beijing in droves. China originally expected 1.

It looks like foreign tourists are avoiding Beijing in droves. China originally expected 1.5 million visitors. Now that’s down to 450,000.

Still, that’s nearly 450,000 journalists coming to town. Everyone’s a reporter now, thanks to tiny electronics and the Web. Even tourists should regard themselves as such. And don’t think Beijing isn’t watching those who watch it.

In most parts of the world, it’s 24 years past 1984. The ubiquity of video screens, cameras and communications has gone a long way toward upending Big Brother.

Citizens have more power over police, for instance, thanks to the technology they carry in their hands every day.

A good example in the last week was the capturing of this video concerning a policeman’s attack on a bicyclist in New York City – which the policeman had reported was an attack on himself and a threat to vehicles that no one could find.

Simple camerawork can also document man’s inhumanity to man, as in this video on a hit-and-run accident in Hartford, CT.

But if you’re Liu Shaokun and you live in China, you are beholden to a government which feels most comfortable sticking with a 1984-like script. If you’re found posting images of schools that collapsed in an earthquake on the Internet, Big Brother gives you a year of “re-education” – in a labor camp.

And if you are professional journalists on the job at the Olympics, you get blocked from any sites that might give you a whiff of human rights abuses or other information that might affect the "stability" of the country.

So, dear citizens of the world, as you head into Beijing over the next couple weeks, you may be able to help advance the cause of human freedom in China by recording what you see, on the street, when you least expect it.

But, as citizen journalists, beware. The definition of “media freedom” in China is a moving target. And you could be one.

That means:

Be alert, but be cautious. • Don’t be too obvious, in what you try to record outside the stadium. You may have eyes or cameras trained on you, too. • Pick your spot.If you are so bold as to try and take down an account of an event from a Chinese citizen using a digital recorder, do so out of sight, if you must. • Make copies. Store them in multiple locations. • Don’t distribute a single one, until after you’re safely home – or outside the borders of China, in a free country.

If you think you’re going to file an “iReport” for CNN, make sure the “i” is not about you.

Any other tips, techies?