Senior Chinese official criticises Internet censorship

BEIJING • A senior official of China's top advisory body has slammed the country's increasing Internet censorship, warning that it is hampering scientific research and economic development.

It is rare for senior officials such as Mr Luo Fuhe to voice their criticism in public. He is a vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and executive vice-chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party, one of eight non-communist parties on the mainland.

Mr Luo was particularly bitter over growing restrictions on overseas websites not deemed sensitive to China's politics, the South China Morning Post reported yesterday, citing China.com.cn, an official news portal.

Mr Luo noted that even for websites such as those of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and overseas universities, it could take 10 to 20 seconds for a single webpage to load.

Slow access to overseas academic websites has forced Chinese researchers to buy software to bypass China's firewalls or travel overseas to conduct research, said Mr Luo, an academic-turned-official in charge of scientific development in Guangdong province.

"It is not normal," he told reporters on Wednesday in Beijing.

Mr Luo also said Internet curbs have become a major cause of concern for overseas investors and businesses operating in China, which undermines confidence in the country, the SCMP said.

He warned that these concerns over slow Internet access and growing online censorship "will have (a) grave impact on our country's socio-economic development and scientific research" and said that these must be properly addressed by the top leadership.

Under President Xi Jinping, China has implemented an unprecedented tightening of Internet controls which officials say are necessary to maintain social stability and national security. Google, Facebook and Twitter are all inaccessible in China.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 05, 2017, with the headline 'Senior Chinese official criticises Internet censorship'. Print Edition | Subscribe