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Senior Chinese Official Publicly Challenges China’s Extensive Internet Censorship

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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A senior government adviser slammed China’s internet censorship practices, arguing that such restrictions prevent social and economic development.

Luo Fuhe is vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and executive vice chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party, which is independent of the state and the ruling Communist Party of China in name only. His verbal assault on the infamous Great Firewall of China, part of the much larger Golden Shield Project, began just before the start of this year’s CPPCC session, reports the South China Morning post.

The Chinese government has tightened its grip on the internet in recent years.

It is rare for a state official to challenge the government’s policies, especially given Chinese President Xi Jinping’s status as the most powerful Chinese leader in decades. Since he took office four years ago, over one million government officials have been investigated and punished for corruption. Many outside observers believe that the president’s anti-corruption campaign is a carefully crafted effort to eliminate political opponents.

The current administration has put emphasis on increasing internet restrictions.

Luo, a former academic, called out the government for blocking overseas websites necessary for research.

“Opening a single webpage takes at least 10-20 seconds, and it can take over 30 minutes to visit the websites of some universities,” Luo explained.

He also criticized China’s decision to block “a famous foreign search engine”  — a clear reference to Google.

Luo suggested that the government engage in “precision” censorship, which would involve tightening restrictions for websites that pose an actual threat to the state and loosening restrictions elsewhere. The current tools have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water.

In China, people often use virtual private network (VPN) services to jump the firewall.

“It is not normal when quite a number of researchers have to purchase software that helps them bypass the country’s firewalls in order to complete their scientific research,” Luo told his colleagues.

He noted that the current censorship practices not only affect domestic researchers, but they make foreign investors and companies hesitant to do business in China.

Luo pointed out that limited internet “will have grave impact on our country’s socio-economic development and scientific research.”

China blocks thousands of websites, including countless overseas news sites. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are banned. China promotes “cyber sovereignty” in its management of domestic internet services, which means that Beijing emphasizes national sovereignty, national security, and social stability over internet freedom.

While the debate over China’s internet censorship activities has been ongoing in private for years, it is quite rare for a senior official to step forward and drag the debate into the public sphere.

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