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The Google war: China calls US an 'information imperialist'

January 24, 2010

Speech by Hillary Clinton on internet freedom provokes angry response

By Clifford Coonan in Beijing
The Independent
January 23, 2010

China responded with a fierce broadside yesterday
after Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State,
attacked its record on internet freedom. The
country labelled Washington an "information
imperialist" and said accusations that China was
manipulating the internet for its own ends were false.

Web giant Google's threat to leave China over
cyber attacks on rights activists and internet
censorship, combined with Ms Clinton's strong
denunciation of censorship, have caused the
Google affair to escalate into a major row between Washington and Beijing.

The Chinese say the tension between the two
superpowers is harming diplomatic ties, and
Beijing officials told Ms Clinton to "stop finger-pointing".

"The US side had criticised China's policies on
Internet administration, alluding that China
restricts internet freedom. We firmly oppose such
words and deeds, which are against the facts and
harm the China-US relations," Foreign Ministry
spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said on the government's website.

Many cyber experts suspect that the hacker
attacks from China on Google and other targets
were so sophisticated that official involvement
was likely. The fact that human rights activists,
journalists and dissidents were targeted also
encouraged the suggestion that this might be the case.

Chinese hackers are famously patriotic and have
been blamed for attacking the website of Tokyo's
Yasukuni war shrine, seen by many Asian nations
as a symbol of Japan's past war-time aggression,
and the website of the Melbourne International
Film Festival after it said it would show a film
about the Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer.

It's the latest sign of strain between China and
the US, with the two countries already at
loggerheads over trade issues, China's currency
and the sale of weapons by the US to Taiwan.

"We urge the US side to respect facts and stop
using the so-called freedom of the internet to
make unjustified accusations against China," the statement said.

In her speech in Washington, Clinton cited China
as among a number of countries where there has
been "a spike in threats to the free flow of
information" over the past year. She also named
Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia
and Vietnam. She said: "countries or individuals
that engage in cyber attacks should face
consequences and international condemnation."

Yesterday White House spokesman Bill Burton made
clear that President Obama agreed with his
secretary of state. "All we're looking for from
China are some answers," he told reporters. He
said that Obama "continues to be troubled by the cyber security breach".

Mr Ma insisted the internet was open and free in
China. But such claims are at odds with the fact
that the Chinese government heavily censors
online activity and keeps a tight rein on the
internet. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and
YouTube are blocked in China, which uses a
filtering system known as "The Great Firewall of
China" to block any sites that have content which
runs counter to the Communist Party's interests.
The government said that this kind of censorship
was in keeping with China's "national conditions and cultural traditions".

After July's riots in Xinjiang province, in the
far north west of the country, the authorities
completely cut off all but the most rudimentary
internet access to the region, and have only recently allowed it to resume.
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