Authorities in China temporarily denied access to two popular Internet search engines, Sina-dot-com and Sohu-dot-com. China has over one-hundred-million Internet users. According to news reports, editors of the two Web portals were "ordered to shut down their search engines after they failed an on-the-spot censorship test."
China routinely blocks access to Internet sites that discuss democracy, human rights, Tibet, Taiwan, and other topics. Internet service providers in China, including U.S. companies such as Google and Yahoo, are required by the Chinese government to filter content as a condition of doing business in China.
The Chinese government goes to great lengths to censor the Internet and punish those who use it to speak freely in favor of peaceful democratic change. In May, Yang Tianshui, an independent Chinese journalist, was sentenced to twelve years in prison. Mr. Yang posted Internet articles in support of the "Velvet Action of China." The nonviolent movement is modeled on the 1989 Velvet Revolution that led to the peaceful overthrow of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia.
The U.S. State Department has set up a task force to investigate attempts to stifle the free flow of information and ideas over the Internet in China and elsewhere. Josette Shiner, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs, says, "the tools of repression, the tools of censorship are many and varied":
"Certainly in the technological age, we see new manifestations of that. This is a challenge not only for our companies but for our citizens abroad, for the American government, as we seek to affirm the principles of human rights and access to information, human dignity, [and] human freedom."
Under Secretary of State Shiner says, "Since its launch a little over a decade ago, the Internet has proven to be the greatest purveyor of news and information in history. . . .Nevertheless," she says, "there are severe challenges to this openness." The U.S., says Ms. Shiner, will do all it can "to maximize the free flow of information over the Internet and minimize success by repressive regimes in censoring information and silencing legitimate debate."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.