China has denounced US criticism of its internet controls, saying it could harm ties between the two countries.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Thursday for China to lift restrictions on the internet. Mrs Clinton also urged Beijing to investigate Google’s complaints that cyber attacks had originated in China. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said the US should “respect the facts” and stop making “groundless accusations against China”.
“The US has criticised China’s policies to administer the internet, and insinuated that China restricts internet freedom,” he said in a statement posted on the foreign ministry website. “This runs contrary to the facts and is harmful to China-US relations.” An article in the Communist Party’s Global Times English language news website called Mrs Clinton’s criticisms “information imperialism”.
In a wide-ranging speech in Washington, Mrs Clinton said the internet had been a “source of tremendous progress” in China but that any country which restricted free access to information risked “walling themselves off from the progress of the next century”.
She said that the US intended to address issues of internet freedom within its relationship with Beijing. She also called for tough action against people and states that carried out cyber attacks. Google said on 12 January that hackers had tried to infiltrate its software coding and the e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists, in a “highly sophisticated” attack.
The California-based company, which launched in China in 2006, said it would quit the country unless it could find a way to operate within Chinese law with less censorship. Google’s Chinese-language search engine does not return results for terms such as Tiananmen Square protests and Falun Gong. Chinese officials have said repeatedly that Google and other foreign internet companies were welcome to operate within China as long as they obeyed the country’s laws and traditions.
Mrs Clinton called on Chinese authorities to investigate the Google complaint of cyber attacks and to make the results available. She also urged companies operating in China, and elsewhere, to take a “principled stand” against censorship. “The private sector has a shared responsibility to safeguard free expression… this needs to be part of our national brand.” Mrs Clinton also singled out countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan as having boosted censorship or harassed bloggers