China's censorship of the internet must stop
Amnesty International has again urged the Chinese authorities to end censorship of the internet after online firm Google raised concern about the hacking of human rights activists’ email accounts. Google says the email accounts of Chinese human rights activists were targeted by hackers and has called for an urgent meeting with authorities in China to discuss censorship and its plans to remove filtering software from its search engine in China. Many internet companies operating in China, including Google, have previously accepted the government's censorship requirements including removing certain "sensitive" websites from search results. "It is highly worrying that there have been attempts to access the email accounts of human rights activists, however, Google has taken a step in the right direction by publicly raising their concerns about their customers’ right to privacy and freedom of expression. It is also a welcome move that the company has highlighted the need for people to have access to uncensored information. We hope other corporations will also challenge the government of China over their censorship policies", said Roseann Rife, Amnesty International's Deputy Asia-Pacific Director. ''We would like to see Google's discussions with the Chinese authorities on censorship result in a more open internet in China. It is also important that Google raises with the Chinese government its concerns about hacking activities originating in China." said Rife. Amnesty International has been calling on companies operating in China to respect the right to freedom of expression for web users and not to cooperate with the authorities in censoring the internet and self regulating the flow of information. China operates an extensive censorship policy which includes filtering specific key words and politically sensitive subjects, which result in the blocking of specific internet results, as well as the complete blocking of a large number of websites, including human rights websites such as Amnesty International’s, considered politically sensitive by the authorities. Human rights activists and other individuals have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms for posting information on the internet. Prominent human rights activist Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison for political writings, and for his participation in Charter 08, a petition posted on the internet asking for democratic reform and respect for human rights in China. In April 2005, Shi Tao Shi Tai, a Chinese journalist, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities". Chinese authorities acquired his email account holder information from Yahoo and used it to gather evidence to charge Shi Tao. "It is important that internet search engine companies recognize the censorship measures adopted in China are not in the best interests of their customers and do not help promote freedom of expression or the right to information", said Rife.