Scarves and Declarations Unravel at World Internet Conference

Tourists stand next to national flags at Xizha Scenic Spot ahead of the First World Internet Conference, also known as Wuzhen Summit, in Wuzhen, a town in east China's Zhejiang province. (Imaginechina via AP Images) Close

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Tourists stand next to national flags at Xizha Scenic Spot ahead of the First World Internet Conference, also known as Wuzhen Summit, in Wuzhen, a town in east China's Zhejiang province. (Imaginechina via AP Images)

Spare a moment to pity the hardworking organizers of the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, China. These people work late.

Just around 11 p.m. last night, when certain conference attendees were brushing their teeth and getting ready for bed, envelopes began sliding under hotel room doors. Inside was a draft copy of the two-page "Wuzhen Declaration,'' with copies in both English and Chinese, which was scheduled to be released at the closing ceremony at 11 a.m. today. There was also a bilingual explanatory note.

"In light of the views of various sides, we have made this draft declaration,'' the explanatory note read. "If you want to make revisions to it, please contact the organizing committee before 8 a.m. on 21 November 2014.''

Hmmm. So if you want to have input on the Wuzhen Declaration about the future of the global Internet, you must submit that input between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m.?

The document laid out nine points. It called for:

1. Enhanced cyberspace connectivity.
2. Respect for Internet sovereignty of all countries.
3. Joint efforts on cyber security.
4. Joint efforts to fight cyber terrorism.
5. Advanced development of Internet technology.
6. Vigorous development of the Internet economy.
7. Widely spread the positive energy. (Yes you read that right. Verbatim: Widely spread the positive energy. This apparently involves promoting fine culture and producing "more digital cultural products of high quality.'')
8. Dedication to healthy growth of young people by cracking down on pornography and violence, so that the Internet "does not damage the future of mankind.''
9. Work for a cyberspace shared and governed by all.

Now, you might have thought that was enough to keep you busy between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m., but for the weary conference organizers, this was just the start.

For the conference attendee who, say, went to bed at 11 p.m. without submitting a response to the 9-point declaration, they awoke to find another envelope on their floor. What weighty announcement could this be?

A memo datelined 2:00 a.m. on Nov. 21, which read: "According to the latest adjustment, the memorial scarf is not required to wear on the Closing Ceremony of the 1st World Internet Conference''.

The blue and white scarves with World Internet Conference logo emblazoned thereupon had been handed out to each conference attendee at registration. So, according to this memo, while the nuts and bolts of the Wuzhen Declaration were being hammered out after midnight, simultaneously at 2 a.m. there was a debate about whether to wear scarves at the closing?

In the end, neither came to pass. The draft declaration was not released at the closing ceremony as planned. So, all that work until 2 a.m., for no scarves and no declaration.

An e-mail to conference organizers requesting details on the status of the Wuzhen Declaration didn't immediately receive a reply. They must have been exhausted.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Edmond Lococo at elococo@bloomberg.net or Keith Zhai at qzhai4@bloomberg.net in Beijing

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