(by Anupama Narayanswamy, Nov. 2, 2005, WashingtonTimes.com) – China’s continuing crackdown on the press and censorship of the Internet is being supported by U.S. companies and the transfer of U.S. technology, prompting advocates of a free press to demand a change in American foreign policy.
“There is a need for a U.S.-backed campaign to promote democracy in China, and the freedom of expression is the lifeblood of democracy,” John J. Tkacik Jr., senior research fellow in China Policy, said at a Heritage Foundation conference yesterday.
“U.S. companies such as Yahoo and Cisco are helping the Chinese government [put reporters in jail],” said Lucie Morillon of Reporters Without Borders.
Mr. Tkacik urges U.S. lawmakers to establish an office of global Internet freedom to coordinate technologies that would counter censorship. He said this is the least the U.S. government can do toward curtailing Internet censorship and the policing of dissidents.
In a research paper, “China’s Orwellian Internet,” Mr. Tkacik said American companies helping the Chinese should have to file detailed descriptions of their custom-designed systems with the U.S. government.
Because the Chinese are using typical software with a broad range of uses, from personal computers to mobile phones, this software needs to be designated as police equipment and registered as dual-use items for national security purposes, Mr. Tkacik said.
Yahoo.com, a popular Web portal, and Cisco Systems Inc., an Internet networking manufacturer, are criticized for helping the Chinese government monitor Internet use.
Yahoo has been accused of collaborating with China’s media police and has signed an agreement with government authorities to block information that the government deems disruptive and detrimental to the state.
“Yahoo should not go bended-knee in front of Beijing,” Miss Morillon said.
Mr. Tkacik said a search of “Jiang” on the Chinese version of Yahoo.com pulled up only 24 sites, all of which were flattering to former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin. The same search on the American Yahoo system yesterday listed more than 900,000 Web sites, many hostile to the Chinese government.
Dan Sutherland of Radio Free Asia, a panelist at the Heritage conference, said Cisco supplied the Chinese with several special firewall boxes, each worth $20,000.
Mr. Tkacik said the devices help the Chinese government search for, identify and intercept transmissions from its citizens involved in democracy activism.
Reporters Without Borders lists at least 31 journalists and more than 60 “cyber-dissidents” in Chinese prisons. The organization ranks China 159th out of 167 nations in its 2005 Worldwide Press Freedom Index.
Copyright 2005 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com
1. Re-read paragraph #2. Re-write the sentence to more clearly explain where John Tkacik works.
2. Re-read paragraphs 4,5 and 6. Which paragraph’s meaning is unclear? Do a yahoo or google search of the writer. What information can you find to help explain why parts of this article are not clearly written? Whose responsibility is it to ensure clarity?
3. Explain how the U.S. company Yahoo works with the Chinese government to prevent free speech in China. Be specific.
4. Explain how the U.S. company Cisco helps the Chinese government to put reporters and citizens who express their own opinions in jail. Be specific.
5. Read the section “How Chinese Censorship Works” on the Reporters Without Borders website. (scroll halfway down for the correct section) What surprises you the most about this report?
6. What is Yahoo’s motive for helping the Chinese government to censor free speech and freedom of the press? What is ironic about Yahoo’s actions in China? Why don’t Yahoo and Cisco publicize their activities with the Chinese government to their American customers?
What can the American consumer do about the despicable actions of Yahoo and Cisco? Should the U.S. government do anything?
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