Chinese government sharply criticizes Clinton's speech urging Internet freedom

By Steven Mufson
Saturday, January 23, 2010

BEIJING -- China's Foreign Ministry sharply criticized Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's call Thursday for broad Internet freedom, saying that the United States should "cease using so-called Internet freedom to make groundless accusations against China."

Ma Zhaoxu, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said that "the U.S. has criticized China's policies on administering the Internet and insinuated that China restricts Internet freedom. We are firmly against words and deeds contrary to the facts and harmful to China-U.S. relations."

A Chinese newspaper also joined the criticism of Clinton, who delivered her speech after Google declared last week that it would stop censoring results on its Chinese-based search engine even if that meant losing its license. The announcement followed a cyberattack on the company's computers.

The Global Times said that the U.S. campaign "for uncensored and free flow of information on an unrestricted Internet is a disguised attempt to impose its values on other cultures in the name of democracy."

Clinton said that freedom on the Internet is closely linked to other basic freedoms, including freedom of speech, worship and assembly. She also said the U.S. government would support individuals and companies that help people in countries with restricted access to circumvent obstacles.

The Global Times said that less-developed countries cannot match the amount of information generated in industrialized countries such as the United States. As a result, it said, "countries disadvantaged by the unequal and undemocratic information flow have to protect their national interest, and take steps toward this. This is essential for their political stability as well as normal conduct of economic and social life."

Many Chinese bloggers took a more upbeat view of Clinton's stance. "Hillary's speech symbolizes that a free country has declared a war on dictatorship countries in the area of free speech," said Wen Yunchao, a Guangzhou-based blogger. "It might be as significant as the statement made by Churchill about the Iron Curtain."

But Rao Jin, founder of Access China Communication Network, a pro-government Web site, said: "Why do we have to accept the standard of the United States? The attitude of the U.S. is so arrogant. Clinton mentioned one Internet. Actually, it's the Internet of the United States. It's Google of the States."

Staff researcher Zhang Jie contributed to this report.

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