June 8, 2010

China Speaks Out Over Country’s Firewall

On Tuesday, China defended its action taken to censor the Internet, saying it needed to do so in order to ensure state security.

China's statement on the matter comes after a very public dispute with Google over web freedoms, which prompted the U.S firm to shut down its Chinese search engines.

China "advocates the exertion of technical means" in line with existing laws and international norms "to prevent and curb the harmful effects of illegal information on state security, the public interest and minors", it said.

The government said such laws and regulations allow the curbing of content on everything from "instigating racial hatred or discrimination and jeopardizing ethnic unity" to gambling, violence and obscenity,

"Effectively protecting Internet security is an important part of China's Internet administration, and an indispensable requirement for protecting state security and the public interest," it said.

Beijing operates a giant firewall that blocks access to any content the government does not see as acceptable, ranging from pornography to political dissent.

Critics throughout the world complain that the Internet rules help stifle criticism of the ruling Communist Party and restrict discussion on sensitive topics like Tibet and the brutal crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests.

However, China insisted on Tuesday that it "guarantees the citizen's freedom of speech on the Internet as well as the public's right to know, to participate, to be heard and to oversee" -- and warned foreign nations to keep quiet on the issue.

"Within Chinese territory, the Internet is under the jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty. The Internet sovereignty of China should be respected and protected," the government said.

European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes said during her visit to China last month that Beijing's web censorship constituted a trade barrier that should be looked at by the World Trade Organization.

Kroes said China's "Great Firewall" was a trade issue "as long as that is a real barrier for communication."

According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, China is among the worst nations in the world oppressing Internet bloggers, and had jailed 24 journalists as of December 2009, many of them Internet bloggers.

The government said in its statement that it hopes to make the Internet available to 45 percent of its 1.3-billion population in the next five years.  Currently over 400 million people are online in the country.

It said the Internet was an "engine promoting the economic development of China" and the country's leaders "frequently log onto the Internet to get to know the people's wishes" and participate in online chats with users.