THE GLORIOUS People's Republic of China has said it has the right to censor the internet, adding that it does so to protect the public, though it was not clear on what it is protecting them from.
The statement came in response to criticisms from the United States regarding what it called the Great Firewall of China. The US questioned why so many US web sites, including Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, are blocked by China
"In terms of China's lawful internet management, its purpose is to maintain a good internet environment and to safeguard public interest," said Jiang Yu, spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, according to Reuters. "These are in line with internationally accepted practices. We are willing to work with countries and communicate with them on the development of the internet and to work together to promote the sound development of the internet. But we do not accept using the excuse of 'internet freedom' to interfere in other countries' internal practices."
Internet censorship could have a monumental impact on trade with the country, which is one of the largest economies in the world. The US ambassador to the World Trade Organisation is reported to have said that companies outside of China are finding it difficult to offer their services to Chinese customers because their web sites are blocked. This could result in fewer imports to the region, which could spark a trade war between China and the US.
China has long been criticised for its policies on the internet, ultimately leading to the partial withdrawal of Google from the country early last year after it raised allegations of hacking. Google threatened to withdraw completely if China did not change its stance on censorship, but eventually a compromise situation was reached whereby mainland China users can visit the Hong Kong search engine for a wider array of uncensored search results.
China has over 450 million internet users, all of whom are affected by web site bans, bandwidth throttling and other forms of internet manipulation that impact citizens' enjoyment of the web. Some of these users employ proxy servers and virtual private networks to get around the bans, but the Chinese government has also been cracking down on these practices.
As part of her statement, Jiang suggested that China is encouraging the development of the internet and helping to protect freedom of speech online, a view that many in China and the rest of the world might have a hard time believing. µ