China Torn over Internet Freedoms

An article on Asia Times argues that China has made “enormous progress on freedom of speech,” especially on the Internet and looks at a recent debate over protection of privacy rights online:

To a certain extent, such online freedom of speech is now being encouraged by the central leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as it is of great help for them to have first-hand understanding of public sentiment and to supervise the behavior of local officials. At the same time, the CCP imposes tough censorship on any content on the Internet that is deemed a threat to its continued rule.

Ironically, while few of the nearly 300 million Internet users in China (or 298 million by the end of 2008) like the government’s censorship on political content on the Internet, there are growing concerns about the abuse of freedom of speech on the web. People are alarmed that there is a lack of law enforcement to deal with people who deliberately spread false information online to attack others, particularly celebrities.

Such concerns reached a climax recently with two so-called “gate scandals” – “Bribery-gate” and “Spy-gate” – both of which involved attractive young hostesses from the state-run television channel China Central Television (CCTV).