Join our Mailing List

"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

China: Google Withdrawal Shows Government Intransigence

March 29, 2010

Human Rights Watch News Release
Other Companies Should Stand Together Against Censorship

(New York, March 22, 2010) - Google's decision to stop censoring its Chinese
search engine is a strong step in favor of freedom of expression and
information, and an indictment of the Chinese government's insistence on
censorship of the internet, Human Rights Watch said today. Google announced
today that it would not censor searches and instead redirect searches to its
uncensored Hong Kong-based site that would provide results in simplified
Chinese. The company also said would also monitor and publicize any attempts
at censorship of the site by the Chinese government.

"China is one of the world's largest economies, but hundreds of millions of
Chinese internet users are denied the basic access to information that
people around the world take for granted," said Arvind Ganesan, business and
human rights director at Human Rights Watch. "Google's decision to offer an
uncensored search engine is an important step to challenge the Chinese
government's use of censorship to maintain its control over its citizens."

China's estimated 338 million internet users remain subject to the arbitrary
dictates of state censorship. More than a dozen government agencies are
involved in implementing a host of laws, regulations, policy guidelines, and
other legal tools to try to keep information and ideas from the Chinese
people. Various companies, including Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft, have
enabled this system by blocking terms they believe the Chinese government
will want them to censor. Human Rights Watch documented this corporate
complicity in internet censorship in China in "Race to the Bottom," a
149-page report published in August 2006.

On January 12, 2010, Google announced that it was prepared to withdraw from
China unless it could operate its Chinese search engine, Google.cn, free of
censorship. This decision was made after the company disclosed "highly
sophisticated and targeted attacks" on dozens of Gmail users who are
advocates of human rights in China. Google said some 20 other companies were
also targets of cyber attacks from China. On February 18, 2010, the New York
Times reported that these attacks had been traced to Shanghai's Jiaotong
University and the Lanxiang Vocational School. The latter reportedly has
close ties to the Chinese military.

In response to the prospect that Google might stop censoring its search
engine, on March 12, Li Yizhong, China's minister of industry and
information technology, said, "If you want to do something that disobeys
Chinese law and regulations, you are unfriendly, you are irresponsible and
you will have to bear the consequences."

On January 22, 2010, in a major speech on internet freedom, US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton called on the Chinese government to investigate those
attacks. She also noted that the "private sector has a shared responsibility
to help safeguard free expression. And when their business dealings threaten
to undermine this freedom, they need to consider what's right, not simply
the prospect of quick profits."

Human Rights Watch said that companies operating in China or other countries
have an obligation to safeguard freedom of expression and privacy online.
The Global Network Initiative (GNI), an international effort comprised of
companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!, human rights
organizations such as Human Rights Watch, academics, and socially
responsible investors to protect freedom of expression and privacy online,
recommends that companies: "challenge the government in domestic courts or
seek the assistance of relevant government authorities, international human
rights bodies or non-governmental organizations when faced with a government
restriction that appears inconsistent with domestic law or procedures or
international human rights laws and standards on freedom of expression."

Human Rights Watch called on other companies to follow Google's example and
end all their censorship of politically sensitive information.

"This is a crucial moment for freedom of expression in China, and the onus
is now on other major technology companies to take a firm stand against
censorship," said Ganesan. "But the Chinese government should also realize
that its repression only isolates its internet users from the rest of the
world - and the long-term harm of isolation far outweighs the short-term
benefit of forcing companies to leave."

To read the 2006 Human Rights Watch report "Race to the Bottom," please
visit:
http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2006/08/09/race-bottom

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on China and Tibet, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/en/asia/china
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
Developed by plank