Internet Freedom of Expression Guaranteed:

And by the Chinese, no less! How do I know this? Because the Chinese government has released its first “White Paper” on the Internet, and it says so. Entitled “The Internet in China” and released by the Information Office of the State Council — the full text is available here; a story in the China Daily is here; and James Fallows’ somewhat overlong and rambling blog posting about it is here — it declares that:

Chinese citizens fully enjoy freedom of speech on the Internet. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China confers on Chinese citizens the right to free speech. With their right to freedom of speech on the Internet protected by the law, they can voice their opinions in various ways on the Internet. Vigorous online ideas exchange is a major characteristic of China’s Internet development, and the huge quantity of BBS posts and blog articles is far beyond that of any other country. China’s websites attach great importance to providing netizens with opinion expression services, with over 80% of them providing electronic bulletin service. In China, there are over a million BBSs and some 220 million bloggers. According to a sample survey, each day people post over three million messages via BBS, news commentary sites, blogs, etc., and over 66% of Chinese netizens frequently place postings to discuss various topics, and to fully express their opinions and represent their interests.

The paper, however, stresses that “effectively protecting Internet security is an important part of China’s Internet administration, and an indispensable requirement for protecting State security and the public interest,” and notes that Chinese law prohibits the spread of “contents subverting State power, undermining national unity, infringing upon national honor and interests, inciting ethnic hatred and secession” as well as such things as pornography and terrorism. It also, rather alarmingly, calls for “the establishment of an authoritative and just international Internet administration organization under the UN framework through democratic procedures on a worldwide scale.” Now there’s an idea whose time, hopefully, will never, ever come.

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