World Internet Conference: China once again the worst abuser of internet freedom in 2018

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“Whoever controls the internet holds the key to the age of future”, an editorial by China Daily said yesterday ahead of the fifth World Internet Conference to be held in Wuzhen on Wednesday.

The newspaper hails President Xi Jinping as a Marxist politician with deep insights in internet security and information work that secures the country’s information industry with historical achievements.

On February 27, 2014, President Xi presided over the first session of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, formerly known as the Central Leading Group for Cyber-security and Informatization, when he pointed out that as fast-changing internet technology has important impact on international politics, economy, culture, society and military, informationization works with economic globalization, internet has assimilated into every aspect of society and people’s life, deeply changing their production and way of living.

Xi has stressed the importance of internet security and informationization in national defense and economic development while calling for tightening censorship to ensure the fulfillment of his “mission of two centuries” and so-called “China Dream”.

Two years later in 2016, China Internet Security Law was enacted, with a view to increase cyber-security and national security, safeguard cyberspace sovereignty and public interest.

Ironically the same year, Xi’s supporter Lu Wei, once dubbed the “father” of the Great Firewall of government internet censorship, has admitted taking 32 million yuan (U.S. $4.6 million) in bribes, state news agency Xinhua reported.

As the world community has condemned China’s censorship and its notorious Great Firewall, the Communist regime under Xi shows no signs of retreating from “tightening grip of the internet and using it to do more evil”.

The fifth World Internet Conference (WIC), kicking off today in the eastern Chinese river town of Wuzhen in Zhejiang Province, is a total disgrace and ironic shame that such a world internet event is held in the most censored nation of countless rights violations.

Over 1,500 guests from 100 countries, including government delegates, international organisation representatives, leading internet figures and renowned experts and scholars, have been invited to attend the annual three-day event, states the WIC press release.

With the theme of “Creating a Digital World for Mutual Trust and Collective Governance – Towards a Community with a Shared Future in Cyberspace”, this year’s conference will focus on innovation, social credit, digital economy and digital silk-road.

One might expect some positive insights into the prospect of tomorrow’s internet from the conference, but the world is sure to be disappointed by China censorship again to share the message to a broader audience.

A recent report “Freedom on the Net 2018: The Rise of Digital Authoritarianism”, concludes that “global internet freedom declined for the eighth consecutive year in 2018,” and “China is by far the most effective censor of the internet.”

The internet is growing less free around the world, and democracy itself is withering under its influence.” Journalist Adrian Shahbaz commented, “Disinformation and propaganda disseminated online have poisoned the public sphere.”

Sadly as internet freedom declines around the world, the world’s governments today can do nothing to stop China from exporting the Great Firewall.

Twenty years ago in 2000, former US president Bill Clinton warned, “Now there’s no question China has been trying to crack down on the internet…Good luck! That’s sort of like trying to nail jello to the wall.”

James Griffiths says in his work “The Great Firewall of China”, “Once little more than a glorified porn filter, China’s ‘Great Firewall’ has evolved into the most sophisticated system of online censorship in the world. Even as the Chinese internet grows and online businesses thrive, speech is controlled, dissent quashed, and any attempts to organize outside the official Communist Party are quickly stamped out.”

What’s worse, according to Shannon Liao with the Verge, “China is making the internet less free, and US tech companies are helping.”

“It’s the fourth year in a row that Freedom House has ranked China at the bottom for internet freedom. But at the same time that China’s internet remains a walled garden, companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Google are eagerly eyeing partnerships with Chinese businesses and increased expansion into the country. By not opposing China’s censorship policies directly and continuing to embrace the country, US tech companies are arguably legitimizing this restricted version of the internet that other countries are looking up to, Freedom House argues.” The reported has said.

Google launched a censored search engine in China in 2006, but stopped operating the service in the country in 2010. The effort to relaunch a censored search engine in China was a closely guarded secret within Google.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has refused to answer a list of questions from U.S. lawmakers about the company’s secretive plan for a censored search engine in China.

A team of about 300 staff — 0.35 percent of Google’s 88,000-strong workforce — was briefed about the project, which began in early 2017. When details about Dragonfly were publicly exposed, the news spread through the company’s offices across the world, and many Google employees were disturbed by the details. More than 1,400 staff signed a letter demanding an independent ethics review of the plan, and at least five Google employees have since quit the company in protest, world media has reported.

China’s censorship has become so reckless that more and more scandals and human rights violations have been covered up in the country and beyond. The revealed persecution of rights lawyers, the demolition of churches and temples, the disappearance of political activists, and the re-education camps in Xinjiang are just tips of the bigger iceberg.

The world has lost its voice, and the unworthy UN Human Rights organization has done nothing to address these violations. More than that, it has helped the evil to do more evil.

The United Nations Human Rights Council conducted its Universal Periodic Review on China on Tuesday, but the United Nations removed their submissions from papers relating to China’s human rights review, saying that it must respect the “sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity” of China.

According to Hong Kong Free Press, Joshua Wong, secretary-general of Demosisto, trying to send his voice to the meeting, was refused submission of his documents. He said he understood that Beijing has been pressuring delegates from other countries not to meet with Hong Kong pro-democracy activists who visited Geneva.

“There is clearly political pressure from Beijing,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “This is political censorship.”

International civil groups have expressed concern, but the voice is too weak.

By Cloudy Seagail

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