China Defends Internet Censorship Practices
China Defends Internet Censorship Practices

The Chinese government has defended its policy of censoring the Internet and cautions other nations to respect how it polices the world's largest online population.  Some in the international community fear China's high-technology methods for controlling information are gaining popularity with oppressive governments around the world.

There were no surprises in the Chinese government's new white paper, as it reiterated its determination to heavily censor Internet access in the world's most populous nation.

It calls for other countries to respect its Internet laws, which it says are a matter of national sovereignty.

China's communist leaders seem more than ever determined to control content for the country's estimated 400 million Internet users.

The white paper issued Tuesday says censorship is "an indispensable requirement for protecting state security and the public interest."

The country spends hundreds of millions of dollars to control the Internet.  Its restrictive measures, known by some critics as the Great Firewall, are continually reviewed and upgraded.

The controls bring strong criticism from many countries, including the United States, and the United Nations.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman in Beijing Susan Stevenson says Washington opposes China's Internet policy.

"As President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have stressed on many occasions, the U.S. government is strongly committed to Internet and press freedoms and we are opposed to censorship," Stevenson said.

Lucie Morillon, with the media freedom pressure group Reporters Without Borders, says concern is growing that other governments, such as Iran and Burma, are copying China's policies.

"China has been playing a leading role in defining Internet control with a lot of technical means and resources behind it, plus a lot of intimidation against net citizens," Morillon said. "And this is a model that is being exported to different countries, which are following the Chinese model."

Morillon says more pressure on Beijing is needed from the United Nations and the international community to allow greater Internet freedom.

She says the World Trade Organization should also push Beijing to allow greater Internet freedom by applying economic pressure to do so.

European Union officials have said Beijing's censorship constitutes a trade barrier.

But there is hope for Web users in China wanting to access what they choose.

More and more are staying one click ahead of the censors by using proxy servers and learning to become anonymous on-line so they can express their views.

Morillon says in one way, the more the Beijing government seeks to silence its expanding Internet community, the more its members are beginning to be heard.

The Chinese government says in its white paper it aims to make the Internet available to 45 percent of its population during the next five years, up from about 29 percent now.