China Defends Internet Censorship

China on Wednesday defended its censorship of information flowing into the country via the Internet, saying its practices are in line with international norms.

February 16, 2006

2 Min Read
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China on Wednesday defended its censorship of information flowing into the country via the Internet, saying its practices are in line with international norms.

Liu Zhengrong, deputy chief of the Internet Affairs Bureau of the State Council Information Office in China, was quoted in the official Xinhua News Agency as saying that the Chinese people can access the Web freely, and that the country blocks only "a very few" foreign Web sites that offer mostly pornography and terrorism.

"Regulating the Internet according to law is international practice," Liu, according to Xinhua, told reporters of China Daily, the country's official English-language newspaper. "After studying Internet legislation in the West, I've found we basically have identical legislative objectives and principles."

China is one of several countries targeted by human rights groups for blocking Web sites carrying information that the country has deemed inappropriate for political reasons. The nation's clampdown on information has also become a major headache for U.S. Internet companies, which have been criticized for helping Beijing in order to continue doing business in China.

MSN and Google filter search results to abide by Chinese laws and regulations. Yahoo recently sidestepped the issue by partnering with Chinese marketplace Alibaba.com, which runs the portal's operations in China.On criticism of Chinese censorship, Liu said it was common practice around the world to remove "illegal and harmful" information. As an example, he said, The New York Times states it will delete from its forums messages that it finds "abusive, defamatory, obscene, in violation of copyright or trademark laws, or otherwise unacceptable.""It is unfair and smacks of double standards when China [is criticized] for deleting illegal and harmful messages while it is legal for U.S. Web sites for doing so," Liu said.

While welcoming more foreign investment as China builds out its Internet economy, Liu made it clear that all companies operating in the second largest Internet market must follow its laws.

"Companies, including Internet firms, that provide services in China must observe Chinese statutes," Liu said.

In Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations questioned officials from Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Cisco Systems Inc. on their activities in China.

On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department established a task force to investigate the problems posed to the Internet by regimes deemed repressive by the West, such as China and Iran.In recent letters to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus investigating Chinese censorship, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo urged the Bush administration to take up the issue during talks with Beijing, saying as private companies they were bound to follow Chinese laws.

For example, Microsoft in January was forced to take down the blog of outspoken Chinese journalist Zhao Jing, in order to comply with China's rules. Yahoo last year gave information about journalist Shi Tao's personal email account to Beijing, which later jailed him for 10 years on charges of divulging state secrets.

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