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February 16, 2011

China Warns US About Push for Internet Freedom

China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday warned the United States not to use Internet access issues as a "pretext" to interfere in China's internal affairs.

The warning came in response to a speech by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday, during which she urged governments to end Internet censorship or risk the kind social and political unrest currently sweeping through the Middle East.

Clinton also said the administration would spend $25 million this year on initiatives to protect bloggers and help them circumvent Beijing's efforts to curb Chinese access to foreign websites.

Since Clinton's address, Chinese Internet censors appear to have deleted U.S. embassy posts promoting the secretary's address. According to the Associated Press, online searches for the word "Hillary" in Chinese have been blocked on at least one site. And Reuters news agency quotes embassy spokesman Richard Buangan as saying he was unable to post information unrelated to Clinton's speech on the embassy website Thursday.

At a regular news briefing Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu repeated his government's standard position the Internet freedom in China is guaranteed by law. But he also said Beijing remains opposed to foreign interference in Chinese affairs.

Secretary of State Clinton also used Tuesday's speech to point out the role Twitter and Facebook played in uprisings in the Middle East.  Both social networking sites are blocked in China.

Beijing also routinely blocks websites of foreign news organizations, including VOA, and blocks topics it considers sensitive, including the uprising that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.