Calls for Internet Boycott; Draft Amendment to State Secrets Law Targets Internet (Updated)

From Reuters:

Chinese Internet users are calling on fellow web surfers to stay offline on July 1, the debut of a controversial software filter that critics say the Chinese government is using to tighten censorship.

New regulations from Beijing mandate “Green Dam,” a program sold by Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co., be pre-installed on personal computers manufactured or shipped after July 1. China says the filter is designed to block pornography. [ID:nPEK51915]

But many web users and activists both inside and outside China fear a campaign against “unhealthy” sites is a pretext for a wider crackdown on groups and websites that the government fears or disapproves of.

Ai Weiwei is among those calling for a boycott (see his blog post here). The U.S. government is continuing to protest against the filter. From the Christian Science Monitor:

“We would like to see the Green Dam mandate revoked, and will continue efforts to convince Chinese authorities to do so,” a US official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We hope that China will look at the broad array of concerns that the Green Dam mandate has prompted from its own citizens, from global PC companies, and from other governments, and revoke this measure.”

Bryan Zhang, head of Jinhui Computer System Engineering, also stressed that his company designed Green Dam’s so that parents could adjust the settings, but not remove websites from the official black list.

Such controls are still troubling, says the US embassy in China, because it “views with concern any attempt to restrict the free flow of information.”

Update: In response to the U.S. government’s protest, authorities in China say that they are sticking to the original release date for Green Dam. From China Daily:

China will not back away from its July 1 launch date for the controversial anti-pornography computer filter Green Dam Youth Escort, a Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) source said.

The assertion followed criticism from the US embassy in Beijing about the software’s potential impact on trade and about technical issues that called into question the program’s efficacy.

The Chinese government is calling for Green Dam software, which limits access to violent and pornographic websites, to be included with all computers sold on the Chinese mainland starting July 1.

Meanwhile, in related news, Google has stopped its Suggest feature on its China site following the reprimand from the Chinese government over the availability of pornography sites through its search engine.

Also, a draft amendment to the State Secrets Law targets information posted online. From People’s Daily:

“New situations and problems have emerged in guarding state secrets as the country’s social and economic development advances rapidly, especially with the introduction and development of information technology and the application of e-government.”

The materials to preserve and handle state secrets have changed from paper to acoustic, optical, electronic and magnetic forms, which created the need for corresponding policies, according to the official.

An investigation by the NPC found that the proportion of secret-leaking cases through the Internet accounted for more than 70 percent of the total.