China reaffirms online censorship policy

While claiming to safeguard free speech, the Chinese government issued a long list of online speech it considers undesirable. -db

June 9, 2010
By John Paczkowski

Though it has given no indication otherwise, China would like the world to know that it has no plans to allow free access to online content–Google’s “new approach” to the country be damned.

In a lengthy white paper titled “The Internet in China,” China’s State Council Information Office reaffirmed the government’s longstanding commitment to censorship.

“The Chinese government attaches great importance to protecting the safe flow of Internet information, actively guides people to manage Web sites in accordance with the law and use the Internet in a wholesome and correct way,” the paper reads. “The Decision of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on Guarding Internet Security, Regulations on Telecommunications of the People’s Republic of China and Measures on the Administration of Internet Information Services stipulate that no organization or individual may produce, duplicate, announce or disseminate information having the following contents…”

What follows is a list so broad and vague it could easily be applied to nearly any speech Beijing finds undesirable: “subverting state power…propagating superstitious ideas…spreading rumors…and other contents forbidden by laws and administrative regulations.”

But steer clear of those and you’re free to say what you like because “Chinese citizens fully enjoy freedom of speech on the Internet”–according to the white paper, anyway:

The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China confers on Chinese citizens the right to free speech. With their right to freedom of speech on the Internet protected by the law, they can voice their opinions in various ways on the Internet. Vigorous online ideas exchange is a major characteristic of China’s Internet development, and the huge quantity of BBS posts and blog articles is far beyond that of any other country….The Chinese government has actively created conditions for the people to supervise the government, and attaches great importance to the Internet’s role in supervision….The Internet provides unprecedented convenience and a direct channel for the people to exercise their right to know, to participate, to be heard and to oversee, and is playing an increasingly important role in helping the government get to know the people’s wishes, meet their needs and safeguard their interests. The Chinese government is determined to unswervingly safeguard the freedom of speech on the Internet enjoyed by Chinese citizens in accordance with the law.

And if “safeguarding” freedom of speech involves, say, blocking YouTube, Picasa and a bunch of other services offered by Google? Well, I guess that’s just the Chinese government “voicing its opinion” in this “vigorous online ideas exchange.”

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