Obama calls for a free internet in China
President Obama’s call for the easing of China’s internet restrictions yesterday was predictably blocked by Chinese censors.
Obama’s comments at a town hall-style meeting in Shanghai lasted 27 minutes on NetEase’s home page, China Digital Times reported.
“I’ve always been a strong supporter of open internet use,” Obama said.
“I think that the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable.”
“I’m a big supporter of non-censorship…. I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free internet — or unrestricted internet access is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged.”
His meeting with 500 students was streamed online through a single Shanghai site, Xinwen Zonghe, and the White House website. It was also broadcast through Facebook, which is blocked in China.
The state-owned Xinhua website, which had promised live coverage, gave text updates and photos, scmp.com said.
Obama’s speech, unlike those of his predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, was not broadcast live on state TV, while Chinese officials kept foreign reporters away from the auditorium.
Despite the attempts to airbrush Obama’s comments away, they were welcomed by the mainland Twitter community, CDT noted.
“President Obama arriving China with his spectacular army of Twitter, Facebook, Blogspot, Google Picasa, Youtube, Yahoo! meme …,” said one tweet.
“I will not forget this morning; I heard, on my shaky internet connection, a question about our own freedom which only a foreign leader can discuss,” said another.
However, Nicholas Bequelin, Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, criticized Obama for discussing internet liberty “as a question of political culture rather than international legal norms,” the Guardian said.
“What’s important is to put a degree of pressure on the Chinese government for its repressive practices. You cannot do that without a degree of straight talk.”