China's internet is open, UK ambassador tells BBC

Liu Xiao Ming told Newsnight's Gavin Essler that there was a "misperception" about the internet in China

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 December, 2012, 6:57pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 December, 2012, 7:38pm

China's ambassador to the UK defended the country's internet crackdowns on Friday during an interview with the BBC.

Liu Xiao Ming told Newsnight's Gavin Essler that there was a "misperception" about the internet in China and the way the Communist Party dealt with it.

He also denied that it was difficult for Chinese bloggers to publish their opinions because of crackdowns on free speech.

Asked by Essler whether he thought the internet was 'a bit of an irritation' to the government, the ambassador said: "I think there is a misconception about the internet and development in China.

"In fact, the Chinese are very much open in terms of the internet. In fact, we have the most number of internet users in China today."

He added that in China "every day there are hundreds of thousands of comments made by bloggers" but said it was the government's job to "regulate the users for the protection of the safety of the internet to ensure that healthy content is available and unhealthy content should be removed".

This week the debate over whether China was cracking down further on internet users was ignited again after the People's Daily - a government mouthpiece - ran three editorials warning of the dangers of the internet. The pieces were seen by many as a signal of a further crackdown on virtual private networks - VPNs - that allow users to avoid restrictions on internet use. They were published as internet users and businessmen in China speculated that a recent upgrade to the Great Firewall was now automatically detecting and blocking VPNs.

During the Newsnight interview, Essler continued to press Liu Xiao Ming on the issue, suggesting that China's new rulers were stifling the "free exchange of information" simply because they "do not like certain ideas".

The ambassador replied: "If you are in China and can get connected to the internet I think you can get all kinds of opinions. It's much open. A lot of things can be debated including politics and economic and cultural affairs.

"I think you have to have a big picture of the development of the internet back in China."