Beijing Blames Foreigners for Its Fears of Unrest

As China and the U.S. prepare for what could be a contentious round of the bilateral Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the crackdown on free speech and activism continues in China, and is largely aimed at U.S. and other foreign influences, the New York Times reports:

At least 60 activities organized by the United States Embassy in Beijing — including cultural forums, school programs, ambassadorial visits — were canceled between February and April because of interference by the Chinese authorities, and some European missions have been similarly pressured. Several university conferences involving foreigners have been canceled, and the Ministry of Education is stepping up warnings to Chinese scholars heading abroad that they not take part in “anti-China” activities or engage with groups that promote democracy.

The scrutiny has applied to some nonprofit groups, too, with several — particularly those that receive financing from the United States government or the European Union — being visited more frequently by tax officials.

At the same time, China has waged its harshest crackdown on liberal speech in years: hundreds of Chinese have been detained, imprisoned, beaten, interrogated or put under house arrest.

The government had for years guarded against Western influences, including blocking sites like Twitter and Facebook, but those restrictions have intensified since revolts began sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.

The clampdown is concentrated on foreign groups or activities that have significant ties to foreign governments, run prominent outreach programs, encourage free speech or promote Internet freedom.

May 8, 2011 9:57 PM
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