Beijing clarifies internet policy, defends curbs

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 June, 2010, 12:00am

Warning foreigners to respect its policies, Beijing defends its internet censorship policies as necessary to ensure state security in a document released by the State Council Information Office yesterday.

The white paper on the internet in China reiterates that internet policy remains 'under the jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty', which should be 'respected and protected'. It says Beijing will not relax that control.

The government asks Chinese nationals, foreigners and other organisations on the mainland to 'obey the laws and regulations of China and conscientiously protect internet security'.

'Effectively protecting internet security is an important part of China's internet administration and an indispensable requirement for protecting state security and the public interest,' the paper says.

The issuing of the 13,000-word, 31-page policy came after a public row with Google that led to the internet search giant shutting down its main engine nearly three months ago. At the same time, Beijing has cracked down on internet map websites and shut down mainland microblogs and websites without proper registration.

Beijing appears keen to implement a real-name registration system on internet forums and online bulletins. The government has reiterated its firm control over Web postings and its stance in censoring what it describes as unhealthy and damaging information.

The internet is helping to promote the nation's economic and social development: internet-related industries generated 650 billion yuan (HK$741 billion) in turnover in 2008, with sales of internet-related equipment reaching 500 billion yuan, accounting for one-sixtieth of the mainland's gross domestic product.

There were 384 million internet users at the end of last year, with the internet reaching 29 per cent of the total population, a higher rate than the global average.

'This is the first time China has said internet control is an issue of Chinese sovereignty on a state document,' said Hu Yanping, president of Data Centre of China Internet, an independent market research company. It was a positive move to clarify confusion on internet management and policy, both domestically and overseas, Hu said, because it 'improved the transparency of internet policies'.

Xie Wen, a prominent internet analyst and a former executive for Yahoo on the mainland, said: 'It's a response to domestic and overseas questioning of the degenerated internet situation of China.'

It was a standard document to reiterate existing internet policies, he said. The only difference from before was the upgrade to national policy.

'It confirms its stance that it won't ease control under pressure from foreign countries,' said another internet analyst.

The US and European Union have argued that the 'Great Firewall' is a trade barrier, as it blocks communication for internet users, preventing the free flow of information.

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr are all blocked because the government fears they will provide a platform to organise or share what it deems illicit information.

The paper forbids any organisation or individual producing, duplicating, announcing or disseminating illicit information that endangers state security, divulges state secrets, subverts state power and jeopardises national unification; damages state honour and interests; instigates ethnic hatred; jeopardises state religious policy; propagates heretical or superstitious ideas; spreads rumours; disrupts the social order and stability; disseminates obscenity, pornography, gambling, violence, brutality and terror or abets crime; humiliates or slanders others; or trespasses on the lawful rights and interests of others.

The growing Web

From 1997 to last year

Amount invested in internet infrastructure: 4.3trillion yuan

Length of telecoms cable laid: 8.26 million km

Volume of e-commerce last year: 3.6 trillion yuan

At the beginning of this year

Internet users: 384 million

Annual rise in users: 31.95 million

Websites on mainland: 3.23 million

Percentage of population reached: 28.9

Source: State Council