China issues White Paper enshrining citizens' right to freedom of speech on Net

     The Chinese Government has issued a White Paper on its Internet policy and the document specifically highlights the importance of the guarantee of citizens' freedom of speech on the Internet and better access to these rights. The White Paper released by the State Council also elaborated on the facts regarding development and use of the Internet in China, and elucidated the country's fundamental Internet-related policies. According to Xinhua, the Chinese government actively advocates and supports the development and application of the Internet across the country, stressing the government's basic Internet policy: active use, scientific development, law-based administration and ensured security. By the end of 2009, the number of netizens in China had reached 384 million, 618 times that of 1997 with an annual increase of 31.95 million users. The Internet had reached 28.9 percent of the total population by the end of 2009, higher than the world average. Its accessibility will be raised to 45 percent of the population in the coming five years, it said. "These statistics make China among the top of the developing countries in developing and popularizing the Internet," the paper said. "Chinese citizens fully enjoy freedom of speech on the Internet," it said, adding that China's websites attach great importance to providing netizens with opinion expression services. The document reinforced China's autonomy in terms of Internet-content regulation. The paper further said it had found that 60 percent of the country's netizens approved of such regulation as it was a expression of China's socialist democracy and progress. "The Chinese government believes that the Internet is an important infrastructure facility for the nation. Within Chinese territory the Internet is under the jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty," it said, stressing that the Internet sovereignty of China should be respected and protected. On the issue of Internet security, which has especially faced acute criticism from the international media for being autocratic, the document clarified that security concerns are culturally contextual and would differ from nation to nation. "Concerns about Internet security of different countries should be fully respected," it said. The Chinese government will constantly adjust relevant policies to better match the inherent law and the objective requirements of the development and administration of the Internet, according to the paper.

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