Negative Worldcon Bidding in the Internet Age

Fans searching for Beijing in 2016 Worldcon bid information are now likely to come across http://beijing2016.org/. This is the first example I’ve ever seen of a webpage dedicated to slamming a particular Worldcon bid.

Beijing2016’s header art features a smog-shrouded photo of the Forbidden City. Its lead article is an extract about the lack of internet freedom in China from the U.S. Department of State “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013.”

Search engines are led to it by a notice in the lower right corner:

Beijing 2016 Worldcon Bid

Beijing will bid to host the 2016 Worldcon to be a vote in London this year. A Worldcon is a convention of the World Science Fiction Society.

The domain was created in February. A Whois search shows the domain registrant is an anonymizing service with an Australian post office box in Nobby Beach in Queensland.

I wondered if the use of a U.S. government report rather than Australian source material might be a clue to the site’s creator, though perhaps not. No one interested in criticizing China would start with Australia’s official brief on China, a highly conciliatory document.

I also wondered if this site’s reference to the Worldcon bid was a coincidence – whether there might be a string of Beijing-fill-in-the-year domains discouraging China’s convention business. I found other such domains, though not being used for that purpose. The others I researched are little-used and registered by different owners (not anonymizing services, so far as I could tell). It looks like Beijing2016 was specifically tailored to influence the Worldcon race.

7 thoughts on “Negative Worldcon Bidding in the Internet Age

  1. The page source has some interesting additional features, starting with the language being declared as mainland Mandarin. (From that and some of the linkage, I think this is actually the work of a native Chinese speaker.)

    There are also more references to Worldcon, including one claiming to be sourced from SciFi Kindle, where the current top content is… er… this post.

  2. The notion of a worldcon in China is bound to provoke strong reactions. It is, after all, a bit like suggesting the worldcon in Kirk’s time be held on the Klingon home planet. We haven’t gotten over the idea of them being baby-eating monsters yet … and maybe they are. Clearly, the Chinese government has been about as bad as they come, and there’s good reason to suspect they haven’t reformed very much. On the other hand, some people think that as fans we should be above all that. The trouble is, being above issues only enables despicable regimes to survive. Mere criticism costs them nothing, but lost contracts and no tourism costs them dearly.

    I suppose it ought to come down to the voters whether they think we’re above the little matter of human rights abuses and a one-party state … or whether being followed around by “guides” to make sure fans don’t speak freely to the natives. There are arguments that the worldcon isn’t about politics and that Chinese fans are as good any other, and if we want to live up to the semantics of the name worldcon we have no choice but to be non-judgmental.

    In the end, I suspect it will be practical matters that decide the issue — how easy is it to get a passport to China, how much does it cost for airfare, what are hotel rates like, will the government interfere with the running of the con, will the Hugo have a likeness of Mao on it and matters like that.

  3. Petréa: Thanks for the suggestion to look at the source code. I see that the SciFi Kindle reference follows the main article but isn’t in a visible font.

  4. Having gotten to the point of “can’t afford it” with most conventions, China is not of any interest to me.

    If it’s just a hoax trying to prove a point, there are better venues to use.

    One on hand we have the idea of the bid being real, but would people boycott it because of the human rights violations?

  5. Whether you are for or against the China (or any other bid). I think it is in poor taste to create a website against.a given bid.

  6. The impression I get is that Beijing2016.org was created by one or more critics of the current Chinese government, and not necessarily by people particularly involved in the science fiction community. Otherwise, there would be a lot more focus on the Worldcon bid per se on the page.

  7. From Thursday’s New York Times:

    The dirtiest cities were in northern China… the province of Hebei, which surrounds Beijing, the air quality standards were met on only 37 percent of days last year. … Awareness of toxic air has risen sharply since January 2013, when a stretch of severe pollution in northern China nicknamed the “airpocalypse” resulted in widespread outrage and forced propaganda officials to allow the Chinese news media to report on the problem.

    Many tourists are deciding not to visit China because of the reports of pollution… Foreign workers in Beijing are also becoming much less willing to tolerate the toxic air. That was reflected in an annual survey released on March 19 by the American Chamber of Commerce in China. Almost half of the 365 companies in the survey, most of them in the Beijing area, said they had problems recruiting or retaining senior executives because of the poor air. …

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