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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 February 2006, 07:04 GMT
China defends internet regulation

Internet cafe in Beijing - 2005
China blocks news websites like the BBC's
China has responded to international criticism of its internet regulations by saying its rules are "fully in line" with the rest of the world.

Government official Liu Zhengrong said western criticism of China's internet censorship smacked of double standards.

He also said no one had been arrested just for writing online content.

According to a BBC correspondent in Beijing, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, these assertions contrast sharply with a number of recent cases.

Several people are reported to have been jailed in recent years for posting information on the internet deemed subversive.

Foreign websites covering politics and sensitive issues are blocked
Chinese internet providers face strict censorship
Websites, forums and blogs must officially register and are monitored
China's internet 'police' thought to number 50,000 censors

Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist, was last year jailed for 10 years for sending foreign-based websites the text of an internal Communist Party message.

The Chinese official's comments came amid mounting concern in the US about how its companies are operating in China, because of local regulations.

Internet firm Yahoo has been accused by human rights groups of providing information to Chinese authorities that led to two internet users - inlcuding Mr Shi - being imprisoned.

Companies like Google have also been criticised for deciding to censor their search engines in China.

China's authorities are also facing internal opposition to a crackdown on media freedom.

On Tuesday, a group of former senior Communist Party officials published an open letter to denounce the recent closure of investigative newspaper Bingdian (Freezing Point), and said strict censorship might "sow the seeds of disaster" for China's political transition.


For years the outside world has been criticising China for its control of the internet. Now the Beijing government is hitting back, our correspondent says.

China is no different from Western nations like the US and Britain in the way it controls the internet, argued Mr Liu Zhengrong, deputy chief of the Internet Affairs Bureau of the State Council Information Office.

"After studying internet legislation in the West, I've found we basically have identical legislative objectives and principles," Mr Liu was quoted as telling the state-run China Daily newspaper on Tuesday.

"It is unfair and smacks of double standards when (foreigners) criticise China for deleting illegal and harmful messages, while it is legal for US websites to do so," he said.

He also said that only a "very few" foreign websites were blocked, and that was mostly because they contained pornography or terrorist information.

The BBC News website continues to be blocked in China.

And he insisted that "no one in China has been arrested simply because he or she said something on the internet".

Another well-known case which appeared to contradict this statement involves Li Zhi, who was sentenced to eight years in jail in 2003 for "subversion". Human rights groups said Mr Li and four others jailed in 2003 were posting opinions on the internet and calling for political change.

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