CFAC Taking on the Great Firewall of China
CFAC has initiated a proceeding that will attempt to use international trade laws to force the government of China to end its censorship of the internet. In a submission and presentation to the Office of the US Trade Representative, CFAC has petitioned for the filing of a complaint with the World Trade Organization, of which China became a member in 2001.
Our (concededly novel) theory: that China’s censorship of the internet, the most pervasive and systematic system of censorship in the world, violates China’s obligations under treaties it signed (the GATT, covering free trade in goods, and the GATS, covering services) in order to join the WTO. We contend China must end its censorship or risk limitations on its access to US markets.
Think of this as the biggest access-to-information and free speech case in history. If the Trade Representative agrees with CFAC’s petition and files a complaint with the WTO, and if the WTO rules against China–big “ifs,” to be sure–some 1.2 billion Chinese citizens will, for the first time, have unfiltered access to information about the outside world, via the internet.
CFAC is represented by the national law firm of King & Spalding, whose Washington, DC office specializes in trade matters, including several successful cases against China. CFAC is supported in this initiative by a consortium of organizations, including the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, the National Freedom of Information Coalition, and the China Internet Project at UC Berkeley, among others.
Position Paper of the California First Amendment Coalition: China-Measuring Affecting Market Access For Certain Good and Seervices Delivered Via The Internet
Factual Appendix for the Position Paper of the California First Amendment Coalition
By Nick Rahaim
With the Beijing Summer Olympics approaching, the world has turned its focus toward China. From alt/pop musician Bjork lending her support to the Free Tibet movement while recently performing in Shanghai, to Steven Spielberg stepping down as artistic adviser of the Beijing Games citing objections to China’s ties to the Sudanese government, many see this as an opportune moment to put pressure on the People’s Republic. Here at the California First Amendment Coalition, we have had our eyes on China’s “Great Firewall” of internet censorship.
China’s censorship of the internet is well known, yet most arguments against the firewall and steps to counter it take an overtly political approach. CFAC’s approach is economic, using international trade laws to promote the political goals of free speech and freedom of information.
Group Seeks WTO Suit Against China
The California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC) is pushing the U.S. government to test the argument that international trade laws can be used to end Chinese censorship of the Internet. The free-speech group petitioned the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to bring a complaint against China to the World Trade Organization (WTO), arguing that Chinese censorship impedes the ability of U.S. Internet companies to do business in China.