China's cyber chief defends censorship

Mr Lu says China will pick and choose its friends when it comes to the Internet.
Mr Lu says China will pick and choose its friends when it comes to the Internet.

BEIJING • China's cyber chief has rejected criticism that the country's Internet is too heavily censored, arguing ahead of a major state-sponsored Internet conference that order is a means to online freedom.

China has the world's most sophisticated online censorship system, known elsewhere as the "Great Firewall", and experts have said its inaugural World Internet Conference last year in Wuzhen, south-west of Shanghai, was part of Beijing's effort to shape global Internet governance rules.

This year, the government is boosting the scale of the event - to be held from Dec 16 to 18 - which will include a speech by President Xi Jinping and be attended by the prime ministers of Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Mr Lu Wei, head of Cyberspace Administration of China, yesterday defended the blocking of some websites and censoring of online posts. He said the government could not have been too restrictive, otherwise the country's online market would not be developing so rapidly.

"Indeed, we do not welcome those that make money off China, occupy China's market, even as they slander China's people. These kinds of websites I definitely will not allow in my house," Mr Lu told reporters at a briefing on the conference. He reiterated that China will pick and choose its friends when it comes to the Internet. "I, indeed, may choose who comes into my house. They can come if they are friends," he said. "Freedom is our goal. Order is our means."

China has the world's largest population of Internet users, at around 650 million, and is home to some of the biggest Internet firms, including Tencent Holdings, Baidu Inc and Alibaba Group Holding.

The government blocks many sites it deems could challenge the rule of the Communist Party or threaten stability. This year, China has advanced laws and regulations that contain "secure and controllable" provisions, which many foreign technology firms fear could mandate the handover of commercial secrets. It says the rules are necessary because of growing national security challenges and the global threat of terrorism.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2015, with the headline 'China's cyber chief defends censorship'. Print Edition | Subscribe