Chinese internet users showed their disapproval for the government’s information control in a petition signed by hundreds of citizens.
The document stated that the nation, of over 100 million internet users, grants constitutional rights to its citizens for freedom of expression and publication, and that those rights "should be respected and protected" and "not be subject to any unlawful restrictions and obstructions."
"The problem is we're supposed to enjoy freedom of expression, but rules like these mean all the channels for expression are blocked," said Chen Yongmiao, a Beijing rights activist, according to Reuters.
The petition began circulating, Saturday, in emails and Chinese-language websites not targeted by government censorship. 13 of the signatories included representatives from local Chinese websites that were recently shut down.
China denied that it blocks freedom of expression, stating that such internet restrictions are not uncommon in other countries.
Existing domestic major search engines –Sohu.com and Baidu.com – and China site operated by Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft routinely block searches on politically sensitive terms.
In 2004, a Norway-based religious freedom agency, Forum 18, released its findings in a two-month investigation on China’s censorship of religious materials on the internet. The agency tested several hundred religious sites maintained by different faiths, including Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Jewish. All of these sites, the report stated, were found to be inaccessible in China, but accessible in Europe and North America.
Despite the censors, internet usage continues to rise in China. In 2005, the number of Internet users grew from 16 percent to 94 million. According to statistics released by the China Internet Network Information Center, Web users in China grew by 18 percent in 2005 to 111 million.