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China Rejects US Criticism of Its Internet Policies


China says U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's criticism of its Internet policies are false and will harm Sino-American relations.

The Foreign Ministry says Beijing is "resolutely opposed" to U.S. criticism of China's Internet monitoring policies.

On state television, a Foreign Ministry statement urges Americans to, in its words, "respect the truth" and stop using the issue of Internet freedom to make "groundless accusations."

Beijing officials were reacting to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech Thursday that called for greater Internet freedom around the world.

Secretary Clinton listed China as a country where there is no free flow of information on the Internet. She urged Chinese authorities to thoroughly review cyber attacks on the Internet company Google, and said she hopes the investigation and its results will be transparent.

Google is considering pulling out of China because of cyber attacks and concerns over government censorship.

In a recent interview, the U.S. Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, stressed that the developments with Google in China are related to a fundamental American value - free speech.

"So, is this impinging on an issue that we feel is a core part of who we are as Americans, and because of that, there will be a continued discussion about issues of transparency, about expression, about Internet freedom? Absolutely," he said. "Which I think actually is a good thing. It's a positive part of our relationship."

China's response Friday did not mention Google.

China regularly blocks Internet sites it considers sensitive, including those of international news organizations such as VOA. It also blocks many social networking sites, such as Facebook. In addition, censors monitor blogs and other postings by Chinese citizens for content the government considers subversive.

Rebecca MacKinnon is a fellow at the Open Society Institute and is writing a book on the Internet in China. She calls the Google case unprecedented, and thinks the Chinese government is confused about how to deal with the company.

She says the government may not want to allow Google to operate an uncensored search engine in China because it would set a precedent. But at the same time, she says Beijing may not want to fully retaliate against Google because other companies will be watching to see how it is treated.

She says although the case has received attention internationally, the more important result is that it has publicized Internet censorship inside China.

"And this whole standoff has made the people more aware of their government's censorship policies and that makes people more likely to try to get around the censorship," she said. "The more you're aware of the censorship, the more curious you are about what you're missing, the more likely you are to circumvent."

MacKinnon says only a small percentage of Chinese Internet users use what she describes as censorship-busting software to evade government blocks. But, she says, if a critical mass of Chinese Internet users starts using such tools, it could force Beijing to reconsider its policies.

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