At an unusual press briefing in Beijing, Liu Zhengrong, a deputy chief in China’s Internet Affairs Bureau, has told western journalists international criticism of China’s censorship and policing of the Internet is an unfair double standard, and that China’s Internet policies “basically have identical legislative objectives and principles” as Western Internet regulations. The briefing was covered by the New York Times (registration required) and the BBC.
Liu did not dispute that China operates sophisticated firewall and Internet censorship system, but asserted China’s Internet regulations are based on Western models and are primarily intended to prevent the spread of terrorist information, pornography, and other content harmful to teenagers and children. He argued major U.S. companies and publishers such as The Washington Post and The New York Times monitor and moderate material posted to user forums which is deemed to be illegal or in bad taste, and China’s Internet regulation efforts are no different. Mr. Liu claimed that Chinese citizens can access all but a “tiny percentage” of Web sites worldwide, and have free rein to discuss many politically-sensitive topics. He also asserted no Chinese citizens have been arrested solely for what they’ve written on the Internet.
Nonetheless, China’s Internet landscape is strikingly dissimilar to that of many other nations. China is estimated to employ as many as 50,000 full-time Internet censors. Web sites, blogs, and forums operating in China must register with the government and are actively monitored; Internet service providers (and overseas companies operating in China, like Yahoo and Google) must submit to rigid censorship and information disclosure requirements. China blocks access to foreign Web sites
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