Last year China's Communist Party renewed a heavy-handed campaign
to control online interaction, threatening legal action against
people whose perceived rumors on microblogs such as Sina Weibo are
reposted more than 500 times or seen by more than 5,000 people.
Rights groups and dissidents have criticized the crackdown as
another tool for the party to limit criticism of it and to further
control freedom of expression.
The government says such steps are needed for social stability
reasons and says every country in the world seeks to regulate the
During an approximately 40 minute discussion with Kerry on Saturday,
the bloggers focused on the need for internet freedom, human rights,
China's territorial dispute with Japan and even President Barack
Obama's travel plans, according to a U.S. reporter who attended the
session on behalf of journalists travelling with Kerry.
Kerry said he had urged Chinese leaders to support Internet freedom
and raised the issue of press freedom, in a country with tight
controls on what the media can say and which blocks popular foreign
social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
"Obviously we think that the Chinese economy will be stronger with
greater freedom of the Internet," he said.
Blogger Zhang Jialong asked if the United States would get together
with the "Chinese who aspire for freedom" and help "tear down the
great Internet firewall", complaining that U.S. companies were
helping Beijing block access to sites like Twitter.
Kerry said it
was the first time he had heard complaints that U.S. companies were
helping the Chinese government control access to the internet and
that he would look into it.
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Microsoft Corp denied this week it was omitting websites from its
Bing search engine results for users outside China after a Chinese
rights group said the U.S. firm was censoring material the
government deems politically sensitive.
The United States and China have long clashed over freedom of
expression and human rights, with Washington frequently calling for
the release of dissidents such as anti-corruption campaigner Xu
Zhiyong and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo.
Kerry said that he had raised human rights at high levels.
"We constantly press these issues at all of our meetings, whether it
is in the United States or here, at every level, and we will
continue to do so," he added.
But it was not the United States' role to lecture, he said, as "no
one country can come crashing in and say 'do this our way, it is
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; writing by Ben Blanchard;
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