China slams US criticism of Internet controls

A Google office was active in Beijing yesterday. The search engine praised Hillary Rodham Clinton’s critical comments. A Google office was active in Beijing yesterday. The search engine praised Hillary Rodham Clinton’s critical comments. (Nelson Ching/Bloomberg News)
By Christopher Bodeen
Associated Press / January 23, 2010

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BEIJING - Beijing issued a stinging response yesterday to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s criticism 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.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu defended China’s policies regarding the Web, saying the nation’s Internet regulations were in line with Chinese law and did not hamper the cyber activities of the world’s largest online population. His remarks follow those made by the secretary of state, who in a speech Thursday criticized countries engaging in cyberspace censorship, and urged China to investigate computer attacks against Google.

“Regarding comments that contradict facts and harm China-US relations, we are firmly opposed,’’ Ma said in a statement posted yesterday on the ministry’s website. “We urge the US side to respect facts and stop using the so-called freedom of the Internet to make unjustified accusations against 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.

A state-run newspaper labeled the appeal from Washington as “information imperialism,’’ and Ma maintained that China had “the most active development of the Internet’’ of any country.

Washington, meanwhile, carried its message on Internet freedom directly to Chinese bloggers. The US Embassy in Beijing and consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou hosted Internet-streamed discussions with members of the blogging community yesterday afternoon - the latest example of Washington’s outreach to Chinese bloggers as a way of spreading its message.

The bloggers met with US diplomats from the political, economic, and public affairs sections, who held discussions and answered questions about Clinton’s speech. The meetings were similar to a session organized during Obama’s visit to China in November.

Zhou Shuguang, who blogs under the name “Zuola,’’ attended the session in Guangzhou and said Clinton’s speech resonated deeply with Chinese bloggers frustrated by the content controls.

“We welcome the US bringing this topic to the table for discussion in a diplomatic way,’’ he said.