Father of China's Great Firewall to lead new cybersecurity association

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 March, 2016, 9:18am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 March, 2016, 11:01am

A national industry association for protecting cybersecurity, chaired by a leading figure in China’s internet censorship effort, was set up on in Beijing on Friday, Xinhua reported.

The newly founded Cyber Security Association of China – the first of its kind in the country – consists of companies in related industries, such as internet giants Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and telecom firms China Mobile and China Unicom.

It also includes top universities and research institutes in the field, including the National University of Defence Technology, Peking University and some institutes under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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Fang Binxing, known as the father of the Great Firewall for helping to develop the internet blocking apparatus, was elected the head of the association at yesterday’s inaugural meeting by 257 founding members.

The aim of the non-profit association was to “serve as a bridge” between the government and the public to “organise and mobilise forces in all aspects of society to participate in building China’s cybersecurity,” Xinhua said.

The association will play a guiding role in cybersecurity governance, help promote self-discipline in the industry and push for the establishment of industry standards, according to a statement on the internet regulator’s website.

The association, which falls under the oversight of the country’s top internet regulator the Cyberspace Administration, is the country’s latest move to beef up cybersecurity.

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Last July, China’s top legislature published a draft cybersecurity law to cement government control over the internet and data, which analysts said could further squeeze free speech online and affect multinational companies doing business in China.

Joshua Rosenzweig, an independent researcher on human rights, said by vowing to actively facilitate the government’s cybersecurity measures, these companies were giving away their responsibility to respect privacy and freedom of expression to business interests.

“I’m not surprised at all that companies are lining up to be part of this effort, but I’m disappointed,” he said.

“From a business perspective, I guess that’s probably understandable, because they’re trying to avoid political risks. But when it comes to the responsibility to respect human rights, they failed.

“All these companies have over these years become accustomed to not only following the orders the government give them, but also to showing that they are taking active steps,” he said.