The news that Microsoft (MSFT ) shut down a Chinese blogger’s site at the request of Beijing officials is bringing a renewed focus on the role U.S. companies play in helping China control the Internet. It’s no secret that Western businesses that want to enter the Internet market in China have to do some unsavory things. The Chinese government, determined to prevent dissidents from using the Net to promote taboo subjects such as the Falun Gong religious movement, formal independence for Taiwan, or an end to Communist Party rule, pressures providers to play by Chinese rules and control the content that’s available for local Net surfers.
When companies do restrict what their Chinese users send or read on the Net, however, they face howls of criticism from activists, bloggers, and ordinary folks abroad who think that multinationals should not be helping Beijing police the Net. Nicholas Bequelin, the China research director for Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong, recently spoke with Bruce Einhorn of BusinessWeek’s Hong Kong bureau about censorship and the Net in China.