China Defends Internet Censorship Practices

China says it will maintain its tight controls on the Internet in order to preserve social unity.

A 31-page policy paper released by the government Wednesday says at least 380 million Chinese citizens, or about 29 percent of the population, have access to the World Wide Web. The paper says the government plans to boost those numbers to 45 percent during the next five years.

Beijing is not promising to remove barriers to certain websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, a process critics have dubbed "The Great Firewall of China."

The policy paper says the government's Internet controls are aimed at protecting state security and the national interest, including blocking websites that promote "ethnic hatred and secession," pornography and violence.

The paper asserts Chinese sovereignty over cyberspace within its borders, and demands that the Internet policy be "respected and protected" by foreigners.

Critics at home and abroad complain that the Internet rules stifle criticism of the ruling Communist Party and restrict discussion on sensitive topics such as Tibet and the brutal crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests.

The paper's release comes months after U.S.-based Internet giant Google announced a series of cyber attacks on its Chinese operations, which it says was aimed at accessing the e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

In early January, Tenzin Seldon, a 20-year-old Stanford student and Tibetan activist, was told by university officials to contact Google because her Gmail account had been hacked.

Google moved its main search service to the Chinese territory of Hong Kong.

China has blocked access to VOA's English, Tibetan and Mandarin websites in the past. Data indicate restrictions were lifted over a month ago, though there are reports that certain articles on the VOA website are being blocked individually.

Media rights group Reporters Without Borders expressed concern that other countries are beginning to follow China's model for Internet censorship, including Iran and Burma.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.