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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Chinese netizens angry at Wen interview blackout

October 13, 2010

Agence France-Pressse (AFP)
October 8, 2010

BEIJING, Oct. 8 - Chinese web users are
complaining about an apparent news blackout over
a rare foreign interview given by Premier Wen
Jiabao, in which he spoke about political reform and freedom of speech.

In the wide-ranging CNN interview with journalist
Fareed Zakaria, Wen touched on a variety of
topics often seen as taboo, while insisting that
the ruling Communists in Beijing were adapting.

So far, China's tightly controlled state media
have only published a commentary on Wen's
interview, analysing Zakaria's interview style
without once quoting the premier.

But Wen's words are not hard to find on the
Chinese Internet, popping up on various homegrown
Twitter-like microblogging services and sparking an outburst of posts.

"Grandpa Wen made a shocking speech about reform
on CNN, but it was blocked by the country's main
media outlets! Grandpa Wen, you are not fighting
alone," a user named Shuyu wrote on's popular microblogging service.

"We are with you heart to heart."

Another user nicknamed Garuda wrote: "The people
could not even listen to the words of their
premier. Even he himself does not have freedom of speech."

In the interview aired Sunday, Wen acknowledged
the difficulties of balancing the desires of
China's 1.3 billion people with the need to
maintain order across the vast, ethnically diverse country.

"I believe freedom of speech is indispensable for
any country, a country in the course of
development and a country that has become
strong," Wen, who is a popular father figure in China, told CNN.

"I believe, I and all the Chinese people have
such a conviction, that China will make
continuous progress and the people's wishes for
and needs for democracy and freedom are irresistible," he said.

"I hope that you will be able to gradually see
the continuous progress of China."

China now has at least 420 million people online,
giving it the world's largest web population -- a
fact that Wen trumpeted during the interview.

But some web pages that carried excerpts of the
interview have since been blocked. China's vast
army of government censors removes any web
content deemed sensitive or politically threatening.

Wen repeated to Zakaria the government line that
any opening up of people's rights "must be
conducted within the range allowed by the constitution and the laws".

"I often say that we should not only let people
have the freedom of speech. We, more importantly,
must create conditions to let them criticize the
work of the government," Wen said.

"And it is only when there is the supervision and
critical oversight from the people that the
government will be in a position to do an even better job."

Garuda, the Sina user, wrote: "Wen's interview
with CNN is like the sale of domestic commodities only for export."

On the social networking site, a
user named "colourful bear" agreed, writing: "It
would not be published if he had said it at home."
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