Page last updated at 18:06 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

China's web users debate internet freedom

Google's announcement that it may leave China and the subsequent spat between China and the US have sparked a wider debate about internet freedom.

Here is a selection of comments from Chinese-language forums and bulletin boards as well as e-mails sent by BBC News website readers.

This page contains links to external websites which are not subject to BBC editorial controls.

A group of Google users hold a banner to wish Google well in Hong Kong on January 14, 2010
Google users hold a banner which reads: "Say no to internet censorship - Google well done!"

Google's withdrawal from China could affect millions of web users, as the Google search engine and Gmail have become widely used.

BBC News website reader Shiulinsheng describes the feeling of entrapment in a restricted web.

"I love my country but I am trapped in the big local net of China. I understand the government but foreign friends, we are changing. I love Google and I want to visit YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I hope tomorrow everything will be better."

Teng Biao, a lecturer at the University of Politics and Law in Beijing and a legal rights activist, blogged in Danwei that the security settings of his Gmail account had been compromised. He adds that Google has chosen the lesser of two evils.

"Google's withdrawal from China is disappointing. Yet accepting censorship and abandoning its 'don't be evil' principles in order to remain in China is more than just disappointing."

Internet user Huaidiaodeshubiao sums up the importance of Google in a post for KDS, later translated by ChinaSmack .

"Google is my homepage.
Google Reader is my newspaper.
Google Documents is my document editor.
Google Voice is my communication tool. Without Google, how do I survive?"


Many of the comments on Chinese message boards support Washington's call for China to lift restrictions on the internet.

Internet user #1 China Citizen writes on the popular discussion forum QQ : "We can't rule out the possibility of the Americans thinking about some vicious tricks again, but what they are saying is true."

"As a person born in the 80s," writes Monkey Brother, "who has used the internet for 10 years and has worked on the internet for five years, I think what Mrs Clinton is saying is completely true."

One of the most popular re-tweets on Twitter on the subject of net freedom is a sarcastic comment, mocking the thinking behind web restrictions.

Directly translated, it says: "To publish the Chinese constitution on the internet wouldn't be in accordance with the Chinese characteristics."

It means the idea of having the freedom to publish things on the internet, even if it is the constitution, would be against the Chinese way of doing things.

Student Zhou Lei from Shenzhen expressed in an email his protest - and understanding - for the government's web restrictions.

"I am disgusted by the government's censorship. The web restrictions strongly affect our internet life.

"Can you imagine internet without Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and even Google! This movement [is] also causing antipathy towards the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] in ordinary people.

"However, I also realise that, if all the Chinese people can get access to the Western world, it would greatly affect the stability of Chinese society."


Many users in China have expressed scepticism over the motivation behind Google's announcement.

Tiantianhongfu writes on the popular discussion forum Sohu : "Google has achieved a huge success internationally.

"It's difficult to understand its position now - it's changing its role, it's putting political demands to China. This behaviour is not typical for big commercial companies."

Most people e-mailing the BBC from China are generally supportive of the government's restrictions of the web.

Xiao Zhang from Jiangsu says there is little to be desired in terms of internet freedom.

Why risk potential chaos? So that people can watch YouTube? The government isn't evil, it's just practical
Andy, Shenzhen

"As a student I can get internet access freely every day. There is no doubt that our government is trying its best to provide our generation with a more open internet and a better network environment. Everything has a process of gradual improvement."

Andy from Shenzhen points out in his e-mail that harmony is more important than freedom.

"Trying to make over 50 ethnic groups into a cohesive whole is a problem unique to China and requires unique measures that may seem unpalatable to outsiders," he says.

"But it works - China is the number two economy now. Why risk potential chaos? So that people can watch YouTube? The government isn't evil, it's just practical."

Xu Xiaoxaio, who e-mailed from Guangzhou, doesn't think the US has the right to dictate what the Chinese government should do.

"I don't think there is complete freedom of access to the internet even in [the] US. Does America allow people to publish propaganda for terror attacks against them? So why should China lift its control on content which harms the national safety?

"Why should we listen to lectures from the West saying we should do what they expect? They will not take the moral high ground any more. China should shape up its own culture. We want our own voice to be heard, not just that of the US and the West."

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