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China says its Internet censorship meets global norms

BEIJING >> China’s Foreign Ministry defended the government’s censoring of the Internet on Thursday, saying it meets international norms, as the U.S. questions whether the practices amount to a trade barrier.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters that Beijing supports the use of the Internet, noting that more than 400 million Chinese use it. Though she did not directly respond to questions about a new U.S. inquiry about Internet censorship, Jiang said that the issue should not be used as an excuse to meddle in Chinese affairs and that Beijing regulated the Internet to ensure its healthy development, just as other countries do.

“This is international practice,” Jiang said at a daily media briefing. “At the same time, we are willing to work with other parties to step up communication and exchanges about the Internet and push for sound development of the cyberspace. But we oppose using Internet freedom as an excuse to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs.”

China maintains extensive controls over the Internet, from sophisticated filters to corps of human monitors, in order to block material deemed pornographic or politically objectionable to the authoritarian government.

While Chinese frequently complain about what some call the Great Firewall of China, businesses do too. Google Inc. moved its Chinese search engine offshore after the company decided it could no longer comply with directives requiring censorship of results. But other companies have complained of blocks preventing them from reaching Chinese consumers.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said Wednesday that Washington was using World Trade Organization auspices to seek information on how China censors the Internet. Kirk said the U.S. wants to understand China’s rules on website blocking and the mechanics of Internet censorship.

The U.S. queries are more fact-finding than formal complaint. But they underscore a more aggressive examination by the U.S. of Chinese government policies that foreign business say unfairly put them at a disadvantage.

A group of seven U.S. solar panel companies filed a federal trade complaint in Washington on Wednesday accusing Chinese competitors of selling solar products at below market prices. In a statement, the U.S. companies pointed to land grants, low financing and other subsidies the Chinese manufacturers get.

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