China defends Internet 'Great Firewall'

June 8, 2010 by Robert Saiget
China has defended its right to censor the Internet, saying it needed to do so to ensure state security, and cautioned foreign governments to respect and obey its online policies. The government's white paper on the Internet in China comes after a very public row with Google over web freedoms, which prompted the US firm to shut down its Chinese search engine.

China on Tuesday defended its right to censor the Internet, saying it needed to do so to ensure state security, and cautioned other nations to respect how it polices the world's largest online population.

The government's white paper on the Internet in -- where more than 400 million people are now online -- comes after a very public row with Google over web freedoms which prompted the US firm to shut down its Chinese search engine.

The spat over censorship and cyberattacks touched off a war of words with the United States over , at a time when ties were already suffering over US arms sales to Taiwan and a host of trade and currency issues.

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.

Such laws and regulations allow the curbing of content on everything from "instigating racial hatred or discrimination and jeopardising ethnic unity" to gambling, violence and obscenity, the government noted.

"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 vast system of , sometimes referred to as the "Great Firewall of China". It blocks access to any content the government deems unacceptable, ranging from pornography to political dissent.

Critics at home and abroad complain that the Internet rules stifle criticism of the ruling Communist Party and restrict discussion on sensitive topics such as Tibet and the brutal crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests.

But China on Tuesday insisted it "guarantees the citizen's 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.

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

Kroes, who is in charge of charting the European Union's digital agenda, 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 white paper that it aims to make the Internet available to 45 percent of its 1.3-billion-strong population in the next five years.

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

Premier Wen Jiabao -- who has tried to forge a reputation as a man of the people, contrasting with his colleagues in the Communist Party hierarchy who come across as much more staid -- has done a few web chats since last year.

Explore further: China backs international efforts to secure cyberspace

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4 comments

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RCourtney
3 / 5 (2) Jun 08, 2010
Ensuring harmony and unity through ignorance because ignorance is bliss.

So sad to see a country of 1.3 billion happy mushrooms who are kept in the dark and fed a bunch of ....
Skeptic_Heretic
1 / 5 (1) Jun 09, 2010
Btw, the great wall at the Mexican border is deadlier than the Great Firewall.
Although I don't disagree with this statement for the most part, the wall along the US southern border doesn't keep out ideas.
Skeptic_Heretic
1 / 5 (1) Jun 09, 2010
Sure. And I doubt the Great Firewall keeps any ideas out or in.
Btw, China is the only country on this planet which is experimenting with the idea "one country - two systems". All other countries are trying to keep this idea out.

That wasn't exactly their choice. That was part of the contractual agreement returning Hong Kong to Chinese rule. If they didn't attempt (and reach a head turning amount of success) they would have lost out on an economic powerhouse, and their only truly unhindered link to western markets.

And the intent of the Great Firewall is to keep ideas out. The southern border fence is meant to keep people out. Like I said, our comments are both justifiable statements (in my opinion, with equal veracity), but personally I find the firewall more offensive than the fence.
Javinator
1 / 5 (1) Jun 13, 2010
But China on Tuesday insisted 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.


Oh the irony.

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