Trend: Companies such as Cisco Systems, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo must cooperate with China's censorship policies to gain access to Chinese markets.
The Mercury News describes the issues related to internet censorship by China's government officials. Excerpts below.
China's Internet-filtering system has become an issue in Chinese-U.S. relations. At a congressional hearing last week in Washington, legislators grilled executives from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco Systems about their role in helping China filter information or track down those who run afoul of restrictions on free speech.
Earlier in Beijing, Chinese authorities dismissed concerns about censorship, denying that they widely block Web sites and asserting that they've never arrested anyone for expressing an opinion on the Web, despite a series of detentions that indicate the contrary.
Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based advocacy group, says 49 Chinese are known to be in prison for "posting on the Internet articles and criticism of the authorities.''
There could be other, unknown cases. Asked at the hearing in Washington how many times it had turned in e-mail users to government authorities, Michael Callahan, Yahoo's general counsel and a company executive, said Chinese law prohibited revealing such information.
Yahoo complied with a Chinese demand for e-mail information about journalist Shi Tao, who was convicted for sending information about a Communist Party decision through e-mail and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Callahan said his company was distressed over Shi's case but had no choice because its Chinese employees would have been subject to criminal charges if Yahoo had refused to comply.
Most Chinese Internet users appear unaware of the jailings and nonchalant about the barriers that prevent online research into topics such as democracy, religious freedom, human rights and other sensitive matters.
Even some proponents of free speech dismiss the U.S. debate over how to deal with Internet companies that are accused of helping China neuter the Internet.
Some bloggers say bringing officials from U.S. Internet companies before Congress is unlikely to help the situation.
In Washington, the Internet executives said that even if they banded together, they had no leverage to change the Chinese government's policies. The state company Baidu is the leading search company in China.
As the U.S. debate intensifies, Chinese officials misrepresent the extent of Internet filtering. In remarks widely reported in China's newspapers, Liu of the Internet Affairs Bureau said China blocked ``a very few'' Web sites, mostly those that had pornographic or terrorist content.
China does not make public the list of pages it blocks or filters, but Internet experts abroad say they number in the tens of thousands.
Blocked news sites include BBC News and the Voice of America. China blocks most pages linked to the Pentagon, the Wikipedia online encyclopedia, information on how to bypass Internet filtering, anything on the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong and many other topics.