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Google decision a "crack in the wall of censorship" that sets new standard

January 14, 2010

ICT statement, January 13, 2010

Google's decision to halt censorship on its search engine in China and its
threat to pull out of the Chinese market in response to cyber-attacks that
seek to access the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists sets a
new standard for other companies operating in China. A Google blog this
morning ( announcing the decision was front
page news worldwide.

Mary Beth Markey, ICT Vice President for Advocacy responded to the news,
saying: "This could be an historic step in the advancement of free speech in
China, one that we hope will be seized on by the people as a crack in the
wall of censorship that separates them from the truth. Whatever Google's
calculation, they have publicly pinned their decision on the principle of
freedom of speech. This sets a new standard that we call on them to stand by
and other foreign companies to meet."

The latest news from Google comes in the context of stepped-up efforts by
Chinese government authorities to criminalize information-sharing and pursue
charges of "subversion" for online, email or phone discussions with the
outside world about the situation in Tibet. Beijing has set up a new task
force within the Public Security Bureau specifically targeted at the
"fabrication and spreading of rumors," according to an official press report
(Tibet Daily, December 26, 2008). This initiative has led to numerous
detentions, and supports the trend identified by ICT of harsher punishments
meted out for Tibetans who receive and impart information and opinions than
for some Tibetans who actually take part in demonstrations.

Kunchok Tsephel, an official in a Chinese government environmental
department and founder of the influential Tibetan literary website, Chodme
('Butter-Lamp,' w, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in
November 2009 on charges believed to relate to content on his website, which
aims to protect Tibetan culture, and to passing on information about
protests in Tibet in 2008.

Norzin Wangmo, a Tibetan woman and Communist Party member, is serving a
five-year prison sentence for passing on news over the phone and Internet
about the situation in Tibet to the outside world

Li Zhao, previously head of the national police contingent responsible for
monitoring the internet throughout China, was appointed head of the police
force in the Tibet Autonomous Region soon after the protests of March 2008.

Li's appointment signaled a new focus on cracking down on dissent among
Tibetans expressed online.

Google's announcement comes one day before a scheduled speech by Google CEO
Eric Schmidt to a meeting of Democratic members of the U.S. House of
Representatives tonight (January 13).

Mary Beth Markey concluded: "For 20 years, we've battled against putting
profits in the China market ahead of human rights. It's impossible for us
not to see Google's decision as anything but a real victory for the people
and those who support their struggle for greater freedoms. It is fitting
that Mr. Schmidt is meeting with members of the House this evening, many of
whom, including Nancy Pelosi and, of course, the late Tom Lantos, have
cautioned U.S. companies that it is in their self-interest to take on a
stronger role in the development of both more progressive economic and
political systems in China."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to speak on internet freedom
next week. Yesterday she said that Google's cyber-attack allegations raised
"serious concerns" and looked to the Chinese government for "an
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