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China And The Internet

By Zane Durant Reno Nevada News

China is cracking down on how its citizens use the Internet. The government's Xinhua news agency issued new regulations prohibiting Chinese web sites "from spreading news and information that goes against state security and public interest." The language of the prohibition is so vague that it could be used to censor almost anything. Some one-hundred-million Chinese now have access to the Internet.

A statement released by Reporters Without Borders, an independent monitoring group, says, "The Chinese authorities never seem to let up on their desire to regulate the Web and their determination to control information available on it ever more tightly." Julien Pain, head of the Reporters Without Borders Internet Freedom desk, says, "China is the most efficient at censoring in the international community." Mr. Pain says the rules regulating Chinese Internet users are intended to discourage political dissent:

"It is a climate of social instability at this time in China. Many people are protesting every day. And I think the Chinese [government] just want to tell them that, whether it is online or off-line, you should not protest."

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says that China's attempts to regulate what Chinese Internet users can communicate have "a chilling effect on the activities of the press in China."

"Freedom of the press, freedom of expression is important in any society. We speak out in support of those rights, rights that we consider to be universal rights and that any attempt to limit freedom of expression and freedom of the press is of great concern to the United States."

China reportedly employs an estimated thirty-thousand technical experts to monitor the Internet. In April, Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist, was sentenced to a ten-year prison term. He was convicted of leaking state secrets for sending a foreign-based website an internal message the Chinese authorities had sent to his newspaper, the Contemporary Business News. The message warned of social destabilization associated with the return of some dissidents on the fifteenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Access to the Internet and its use by citizens exercising their right to freedom of opinion and expression should be encouraged. The U.S. will continue to support those who have the courage to speak and write the truth in China and elsewhere -- and who want democratic change. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "The free flow of ideas is the lifeline of liberty."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.

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