United States presses China over Net filtering

/ Source: The Associated Press

Washington has expressed concern to Beijing over its new effort to censor Internet use and its possible impact on trade and access to information, the U.S. Embassy said Monday.

The U.S. pressure comes as Chinese Web surfers are lobbying the communist government to scrap its plan to require the Internet-filtering Green Dam Youth Escort software on personal computers. It is to be pre-installed or included on a compact disc with all PCs sold in China starting July 1.

American diplomats met Friday with officials of China's ministries of commerce and information technology to express concern and seek more information about the system, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said.

"The U.S. is concerned about actions that seek to restrict access to the Internet as well as restrictions on the internationally recognized right to freedom of expression," the embassy said in a statement.

"The U.S. Government is concerned about Green Dam both in terms of its potential impact on trade and the serious technical issues raised by use of the software," it said. "We have asked the Chinese to engage in a dialogue on how to address these concerns."

Chinese officials say the Internet filtering as an effort to block access to violent and pornographic material. But Internet users have ridiculed the system and some are circulating petitions appealing to the government to scrap it.

China, which has the world's largest population of Internet users at more than 298 million, also has one of the world's tightest controls over the Internet.

The government bans online pornography and this year launched a nationwide crackdown that led to the closing of more than 1,900 Web sites.