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Human Rights Watch Calls for Repeal of China's "Firewall"

China has placed new internet censorship regulations on Sept 25, when the Ministry of Information Industry and State Council, China cabinet, settled with rules on the Administration of Internet News I
( [email protected] ) Oct 02, 2005 03:01 AM EDT

A New York based international human rights organizations, Human Rights Watch urged Chinese government to repeal laws and regulations aimed at complete government control of the internet, and calls upon leaders of democracy to press Hu Jintao at every meeting to adhere to international standards of freedom of expression and to tear down its internet "firewall". China has placed new internet censorship regulations on Sept 25, when the Ministry of Information Industry and State Council, China cabinet, settled with rules on the Administration of Internet News Information Services. These rules ensure that news reports are "serving socialism", "upholding the interest of the state", and "correctly guiding public opinion." According to Xinhua, China's official news agency, the only news are those characterized as "healthy and civilized" and information that helps improve the quality of nation, economically and politically are allowed.

"The new regulations make the government and the Chinese Communist Party the only arbiter of what is healthy and civilized," said Brad Adams, Asia Director of Human Rights Watch.

The new regulations, an updates of the rules passed in 2000, are directed toward websites and e-mail, and the goal is to ensure that no uncensored version of news event or commentary will be distributed. Any news related to "politics, economics, military affairs, foreign affairs, and social and public affairs, and fast-breaking social events" are restricted. In compliance with these regulations, internet portals can only obtain their news and commentary directly from state-owned official news sources. In addition, prior to registering as a news organization, no private groups or individuals can sent emails nor can those using Short Message Service (SMS) contact cell phone users to transmit news or news analysis to a list. This action limits the email distribution privileges to only those who "parrot the government version of events," stated HRW report.

"China's leaders claim to be modernizers and that they are leading the country towards greater freedom and democracy," said Adams. "Yet they still remain afraid of their own citizens and the healthy diversity of news and views which defines a modern society."

Furthermore, Human Rights Watch stated that because China leaders fear the use of internet as an organizing tool for unsanctioned causes or protests, so they seek to block the strengthening of civil society mechanisms. News on internet shall not include "inciting illegal assemblies, associations, marches, demonstrations and gatherings that disturb social order or furthering activities in the name of an illegal civil organizations."

According to Human Rights Watch, Chinese officials used several broad and "ever-shifting" terms, "national security", "public interest", "state secret", and "social order", to explain the new regulations; however, they are "left undefined in the interests of putting an end to words or activities that might challenge one-Party control." Within the last ten years, there have been many cases where house church Christians, reporters, human rights activists and other Chinese Citizens were arrested on the charge of "leaking state secrets", "illegal gathering", and "inciting social stability." The well-known cases include Beijing House church activist, Zhang Shengqi, "leaking state secrets", and the case of journalist Shi Tao - sentenced in April to 10 years in prison for "divulging state secrets abroad."