The following is an original translation of a post by lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan. Ironically, the post was quickly deleted from his blog (see the delete notification he got here), but the essay has been reposted here.
On January 21 Hilary Clinton made a speech at the Newseum journalism museum in Washington about the freedom of the internet.
Clinton made reference to China’s censorship of the internet. In parts she criticised China, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry has responded.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu was asked “In her speech on internet freedom on January 21, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented on China’s internet policy, accusing China of restricting internet freedom. How do you comment?”.
Ma Zhaoxu responded: “The US attacks China’s internet policy, indicating that China has been restricting internet freedom. We resolutely oppose such remarks and practices that contravene facts and undermine China-US relations.
China’s internet is open. China is a country with the most vibrant internet development. By the end of last year, China had 384 million internet users, 3.68 million websites and 180 million blogs. China’s Constitution guarantees people’s freedom of speech. It is China’s consistent policy to promote the development of internet. China has its own national conditions and cultural traditions. It supervises internet according to law, which is in parallel with the international paractice.
Hacking in whatever form and offence of others’ privacy is prohibited by law in China. As a major victim of hacking in the world, China believes that the international community should intensify the cooperaion in jointly combating internet hacking so as to safeguard internet security and protect the privacy of citizens in accordance with law.
We urge the US to respect facts and stop attacking China under the excuse of the so-called freedom of internet. We hope that the US side can work with China to earnestly implement the consensus between leaders of both countries on developing bilateral relationship in the new era by strengthening dialogue, exchanges and cooperation, respecting each other’s core interest and major concerns and properly handling differences and sensitive issues so as to ensure the healthy and stable development of China-US relationship.”
I have seen a transcript of Clinton’s speech, and she makes six references to China.
- When she makes references to the audience, she mentions Chinese participants. “Also, I’m told here as well are Senator Sam Brownback, Senator Ted Kaufman, Representative Loretta Sanchez, many representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, ambassadors, chargés, participants in our International Visitor Leadership Program on internet freedom from China, Colombia, Iran, and Lebanon, and Moldova.”
- When talking about Obama’s dialogue with university students, she also mentions China. “During his visit to China in November, for example, President Obama held a town hall meeting with an online component to highlight the importance of the internet.”
- When she talks about the issue of internet censorship, China is mentioned. “In the last year, we’ve seen a spike in threats to the free flow of information. China, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan have stepped up their censorship of the internet.”
- She mentions China again when speaking about how the internet is used to crackdown and suppress religious groups. “Some nations, however, have co-opted the internet as a tool to target and silence people of faith. Last year, for example, in Saudi Arabia, a man spent months in prison for blogging about Christianity. And a Harvard study found that the Saudi Government blocked many web pages about Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and even Islam. Countries including Vietnam and China employed similar tactics to restrict access to religious information.”
- She mentions China when speaking of the attack on Google. “The most recent situation involving Google has attracted a great deal of interest. And we look to the Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough review of the cyber intrusions that led Google to make its announcement. And we also look for that investigation and its results to be transparent.
- When speaking of Sino-American views on the internet, she mentions China once more.
“The internet has already been a source of tremendous progress in China, and it is fabulous. There are so many people in China now online. 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. Now, the United States and China have different views on this issue, and we intend to address those differences candidly and consistently in the context of our positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship.”
Although Clinton had some criticisms of China, her stance wasn’t rigid.
If our internet has any problems, I think that 3 hundred million netizens have the most right to speak out on it. If a fellow countrymen spoke up about the internet, those that supervise it wouldn’t react. But as soon as these words are on the lips of an outsider, it embarrasses them.
Our spokesperson even remembered that “China’s Constitution guarantees people’s freedom of speech.” This made me feel gratified. Internet censors, don’t delete netizens’ posts lightly, or you’ll be infringing on a basic constitutional right.
“[China] supervises the internet according to law, which is in parallel with the international paractice.”
I totally support the spokesperson’s point of view. But I think we need to apply this lawful supervision not only to obscene sexual material, but also to the restrictions placed on citizens’ expression of their views. Even more so, those that misuse public office to stop netizens’ expression of their views should be supervised according to the law.
On the afternoon of the 22nd, the American Embassy in Beijing, along with the American Consulate in Shanghai and the Consulate in Guangzhou, invited netizens to discuss their views on Clinton’s address. I really would like to understand what the situation is like in America with regard to lawful supervision of the internet. It’s a shame that there isn’t time for me to have a turn to ask these of questions.