China censors info on U.S. Internet freedom policy

China runs the most extensive firewalling and Internet filtering operation on the planet—dubbed the “Great Firewall” of China—keeping a tight rein on information Chinese citizens can access via the Internet. China has become infamous for blocking access to what it deems disruptive or politically sensitive information…and now that apparently includes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Reports from China indicate that Chinese censors have blocked posts from the U.S. Embassy highlighting Clinton’s recent speech on Internet freedoms, and China’s top microblogging service Sina has blocked searches on the terms “Hillary” and “Hillary Clinton” with a message that the search results were blocked due to Chinese laws and regulations.

Clinton’s speech elaborated on Internet freedoms as a primary plank of U.S. foreign policy, describing Internet freedoms as a basic human right. In the speech, Clinton said nations like China that stifle their citizen’s online speech and expression will pay long-term social and economic costs, including a “dictators’ dilemma” of being forced to greater lengths of oppression to maintain control over media and speech. “Those who clamp down on Internet freedom may be able to hold back the full expression of their people’s yearnings for a while, but not forever.”

Chinese censors also recently blocked searches for “Egypt” in the wake of anti-government protests in that country that led to the resignation of president Mubarak. China is also not above shutting down Internet and mobile access in entire regions of the nation, such as in 2009 when ethnic riots broke out in the country’s Xinjiang region. Internet and domestic mobile text services were shut down for month, and only re-enabled for domestic messaging and access to approved Web sites.

The Chinese government consistently describes its citizens’ access to the Internet as free and unrestricted, while maintaining it has the right to block and restrict access to information it deems harmful or disruptive.

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