12/16/2015, 00.00
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For Xi Jinping, government should exercise greater cyber controls to fight terrorism

by Wang Zhicheng
The Chinese president wants an international treaty to give governments control over their national cyberspace. Under Xi, censorship has increased in China, placing it just two positions above the last (Iran and Cuba) in terms of Internet freedom. Beijing’s cyber-police has blocked some 5,000 sites. For the latter, AsiaNews “does not exist”.

Wuzhen (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Chinese President Xi Jinping told a Chinese-sponsored World Internet Conference in Zhejiang province that every government should be able to exercise unconstrained “cyber sovereignty” to fight, among other things, global terrorism.

The Chinese president said that effective internet security safeguards and joint efforts are needed to crack down on internet crimes like terrorism, but also drug trafficking, money laundering and gambling. In his view, China wants should exercise “cyber sovereignty” and control the Internet on its territory.

"There should be no Internet hegemony,” Xi said. “No interference in another country’s internal affairs. No engagement in tolerating or supporting internet activities that damage another country’s national security”. The world must strike a balance between “order” and freedom of expression.

However, for various non-governmental organisations, what Xi really wants is to restrict the free flow of information.

China already has a special police force charged with Internet monitoring and a powerful firewall to filter non-Chinese websites.

Some 5,000 foreign and Chinese websites have been blocked, including AsiaNews, because they “do not exist”.

With Xi Jinping coming to power, monitoring intensified. Freedom House put China 58th out of 60 countries in its ‘Freedom on the Net 2013’ report, ahead only of Iran and Cuba.

For Beijing, cyber censorship is needed to curb the violence and pornography. However, cyber controls are also used to ban content that criticises the Chinese Communist Party or might affect "social stability." Scores of bloggers and writers have been jailed for posting "dangerous" content.

China boasts more than 668 million internet users, 594 million of whom go online via their mobile phones, this according to the China Internet Network Information Centre. Overall, Chinese netizens spend more than two-and-a-half hours each day playing with their phones.

So far, GoogleFacebook and Twitter have refused to submit to Beijing’s censorship and are thus banned in mainland China. Many activists are afraid however that the last moral scruples might be traded in for access to the world’s largest market.

For example, in Wuzhen, at the conference site, foreign guests were given smartphones, the use of Wi-Fi, and special access to websites that are usually blocked on the Chinese mainland.

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