02/15/2006, 00.00
CHINA

Yahoo laments censorship but Chinese bloggers want more resolve

Today, the US Congress will look into the workings of Yahoo, Miscosoft, Google and Cisco, judged to be too compliant with Chinese censorship "for the love of profits".

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Internet giant Yahoo yesterday issued a statement justifying its stand taken in China and calling for help to counter Beijing's heavy web censorship. The response from China is that "facts not words" are needed.

Yahoo stands charged with having passed information to the Chinese government which led to the arrest of two dissidents. The company statement comes a few hours before the US Congress meets to look into the behaviour of Yahoo, Microsoft, Cisco and Google, held to be too compliant with China. Tom Lantos, a Democrat who heads the Committee for International Relations, recently described as "worrying" incidents provoked by American internet companies, who had "bowed their head to Beijing pressure". He added that they "should be ashamed" for having submitted to Beijing "for love of their profits".

Yahoo, Microsoft, Cisco and Google are accused of helping the government of China to block democratic sites and to filter information on the web, eliminating from search engines themes judged by Beijing to be dangerous. In the face of international criticism, they defended themselves by saying they had obeyed "the laws of the nation in which they worked".

In yesterday's statement, Yahoo said it was "deeply concerned by efforts of governments to restrict and control open access to information and communication." Without citing China, the statement said that "where a government requests we restrict search results, we will do so if required by applicable law and only in a way that impacts the results as narrowly as possible… striving to achieve maximum transparency to the user."

Yahoo described itself as impotent to be able to "influence the policies of foreign governments" on themes like the "exchange of ideas, maximum access to information, and human rights reform", and instead called for dialogue between governments "to achieve progress on these complex political issues".

The statement ends by promising to work with other industries in the sector, governments, universities and NGOs to identify ways "to promote the principles of freedom of speech and expression".

A famous Chinese blogger, Zhao Jing, dismissed the Yahoo statement as being just words. "Actions shout louder than words, we want to see real facts," he said in an interview with the South China Morning Post.

Last month, the blog of Zhao Jing was blocked by the Chinese government with the help of Microsoft, after he published criticism about censorship in the Chinese press. According to Zhao, in the past, international providers contributed to spreading information and to freedom of expression in China. Today, they are at a turning point: "They must choose between continuing to improve their contribution and going in the opposite direction", facilitating government censorship. "The second option would be a disaster for Chinese internauts," he added. "And [these firms] would lose a large number of users."

With more than 110 million users, China ranks second worldwide in number of internauts.

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