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China Says Clinton Remarks on Internet Censorship "Damage" Ties

China said remarks made by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticizing China’s censorship of the Internet were unjustified and damaged bilateral ties.

In a speech in Washington yesterday, Clinton called on U.S. technology companies to resist censorship of the Internet and said perpetrators of cyber attacks such as those who targeted Google Inc. must face consequences. Clinton also said China’s Internet controls could harm the Asian nation’s development.

“We are firmly opposed to these words and deeds which are against the facts and damage Sino-U.S. relations,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a Chinese-language statement posted on the ministry’s Web site. “We urge the U.S. side to respect facts and stop using the issue of so-called Internet freedom to make unjustified attacks on China.”

Clinton’s long-planned address on Internet freedom laid out the Obama administration’s view of an uncensored global Internet where everyone has access to the same information, and governments and corporations don’t block knowledge or steal intellectual property.

“The Internet has already been a source of tremendous progress in China, and it is fabulous,” Clinton said. “But countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of Internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century.”

Mountain View, California-based Google, which runs the most popular Internet search site, said Jan. 12 it would stop censoring its search results as required by the government in China and might end operations there, following what it described as an infiltration of its technology and the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

“Censorship should not be in any way accepted by any company from anywhere,” Clinton said. “American companies need to make a principled stand. This needs to be part of our national brand. I’m confident that consumers worldwide will reward companies that follow those principles.”

The U.S. government is looking “to Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of the cyber intrusions that led Google to make this announcement” Clinton said.

The Chinese government has said it doesn’t engage in cyber attacks and is itself a victim of breaches of Internet security.

“China stands for close international cooperation to crack down on hackers,” Ma said.

Google said its investigation found hackers from inside China also targeted the intellectual property of dozens of other U.S. companies. Those firms haven’t publicized the alleged attacks, a silence that analysts have attributed to a fear of worrying investors and depressing their stock prices.

“Countries or individuals that engage in cyber attacks should face consequences and international condemnation,” Clinton said. “In an interconnected world, an attack on one nation’s network can be an attack on all.”

Clinton compared firewalls that governments in China, Uzbekistan, Tunisia and elsewhere have erected to keep out information to the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain that divided the West and the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence during the Cold War.

“Virtual walls are cropping up in place of visible walls,” she said. “With the spread of these restrictive practices, a new information curtain is descending across much of the world.”

Google issued a statement praising Clinton’s remarks. The company said it believes in “unfettered access” to information and will continue “work with governments, human rights organizations and bloggers to promote free expression.”

--Indira Lakshmanan, Michael Forsythe. Editors: Don Frederick, Ben Richardson.


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Posted in: News on February 5, 2010 @ 8:26 PM

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