Sunday, 24 January 2010

China slams US criticism of Internet control

China needs no lessons about its Internet from the United States, the head of an online media association said through official media on Saturday, after the United States rapped Beijing over information freedom.

Following a speech by U Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on Thursday, Beijing has issued a stinging response that it is jamming the free flow of words and ideas on the Internet, accusing the United States of damaging relations between the two countries by imposing its "information imperialism" on China. In her speech in Washington, Clinton cited China as among a number of countries where there has been "a spike in threats to the free flow of information" over the past year. She also named Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. Washington, meanwhile, carried its message on Internet freedom directly to Chinese bloggers. The U S Embassy in Beijing, and consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou, hosted Internet-streamed discussions with members of the blogging community on Friday afternoon - the latest example of Washington's outreach to Chinese bloggers as a way of spreading its message.

Clinton's speech came on the heels of a Jan. 12 threat from Google to pull out of China unless the government relented on censorship. Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, said on Thursday that the company hoped to find a way to maintain a presence in China but intended to stop censoring search results within "a reasonably short time."

"On the Internet question, China doesn't need any lessons from the United States on what to do or how," said Min Dahong, Chairman, Beijing Association of Online Media.

Internet control is considered a critical matter of state security in China, and Beijing is not expected to offer any concessions. Beijing promotes Internet use for commerce, but heavily censors content it deems pornographic, anti-social or politically subversive and blocks many foreign news and social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook and the popular video site YouTube.

Responses to the Google issue have ranged widely among Chinese Internet users, with some placing flowers at its Beijing headquarters and others penning screeds bidding good riddance.

U S State Department officials have said they intend to lodge a formal complaint with Chinese officials soon over the Google matter. Clinton not only urged China to investigate the cyber intrusions but openly publish its findings.