MPs condemn web "collaboration" with China

17-08-2006

A group of MPs have attacked western internet companies like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo for the "morally unacceptable" way in which they readily comply with Chinese government restrictions on internet use.

The foreign affairs committee, publishing its report on East Asia today, calls on the government to change its policy towards China, which it describes as a major "regional and international player".

But it also lands a stinging blow against internet companies lured by the promise of China's vast potential market for information technology and internet-related businesses.

"The collaboration of western internet companies in the censorship and policing of the internet for political purposes is morally unacceptable," the report states.

At the heart of the report is an uneasiness with the relationship between China's massive importance to the global economy and the status of its government, whose behaviour the report views as being unacceptable at present.

"The People's Republic of China is still an authoritarian one-party state, human rights abuses remain widespread and, despite changes in the economic system, signs of political liberalisation remain scarce," the report explains.

"The government should continue to raise human rights at the highest levels with Chinese counterparts, and not flinch from making public statements where appropriate."

In addition to public statements the report urges the continuation of mild controlling measures like the EU's existing arms embargo and the conditional nature of its negotiations with China when it comes to making energy deals.

The report also urges the Foreign Office to engage more actively with other western nations regarding China's future.

"The government must urge its counterparts in Washington and in the EU not to succumb to the temptations of protectionism even in the face of growing trade frictions," it adds.

"The committee recommends that the government continue to make the case to their Chinese counterparts that a vibrant civil society can offer benefits to both government and people, and should be encouraged, in the interests of involving more of the population in systems of governance and advocacy."


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