RSF calls for boycott of China’s World Internet Conference

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the international community to boycott the second World Internet Conference (WIC) being organized by China, the world’s leading “Enemy of the Internet.” Communist Party cyber-propagandist Lu Wei has just defended Internet censorship, saying it is needed to achieve a balance between freedom and order.

Freedom is our goal and order is our means,” Lu said at a news conference to present the second WIC, which is to be held in Wuzhen, in Zhejiang province, from 16 to 18 December. “Controlling the Internet is necessary in order to correct rumours,” he said. “(It) protects the rights and interests of Internet users.

In other words, Internet censorship is in the interest of China’s Internet users !

Lu, who heads the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), went so far as to claim that China’s close control of online information and social networks is no different than any other country’s. “There is no country in the world where Internet content is not managed,” he said, trying to play down the importance of the Great Firewall of China, one the world’s most elaborate systems of Internet censorship and surveillance.

Lu Wei’s fairy tales must be corrected,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “China does more than ‘manage the Internet.’ It closely monitors all information accessible to Internet users and systematically blocks any criticism or revelations that are embarrassing for the Communist Party.

Coming ahead of the World Internet Conference, the sole aim of this manipulation attempt is to preempt any discussion of media freedom and freedom of information.”

Leaders of some of the biggest Chinese and foreign Internet companies and around 50 foreign officials are due to attend the WIC. Representatives of Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan will rub shoulders with the likes of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Thomson Reuters CEO James Clifton Smith.

Also due to attend is LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, who agreed to create a Chinese version of this business-oriented networking service in February 2014. Called LingYing, this policed version of LinkedIn is subject to constant surveillance and its private data is fully accessible to the Chinese authorities, as the NGO revealed in July.

The thousand foreign guests who have agreed to attend the conference should be ashamed of themselves,” GreatFire co-founder Charlie Smith told RSF. “Lu Wei has at least been consistent with his messaging and his conditions for doing business in China. If foreign guests think that by attending the conference they can help to free China’s Internet then they are deluded.”

I would even go so far as to say that they are complicit actors in the Chinese censorship regime and are lending legitimacy to Lu Wei, CAC and their heavy-handed approach to Internet governance. They are, in effect, helping to put all Chinese who stand for their constitutional right to free speech behind bars.”

RSF’s Ismaïl added: “Given that the Reuters and Wikipedia websites are censored in China, we have grounds for being concerned about the compromises on censorship that may have been accepted by the leaders of these two major companies in the media and information sector.”

These conferences have had no credibility ever since the first one, whose real aim was to ensure that Internet companies wanting to operate in China fall into line. Lu Wei’s latest statements leave no doubt about the government’s determination to tolerate no freely reported information in China. We therefore urge all participants to boycott these conferences until President Xi Jinping’s government makes significant progress in freeing information.

The first WIC, held from 19 to 21 November 2014, made the headlines when the Techcrunch website reported that a nine-point proposed joint statement had been slipped under the hotel room door of every participant. The points included calls to “respect Internet sovereignty of all countries” and “refrain from abusing resources and technological strengths to violate other countries’ Internet sovereignty.”

China is ranked 176th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

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Updated on 01.05.2016