Google's China Spat Now Officially an International Incident

Chinese officials respond angrily to Clinton speech

By Jackson West
|  Friday, Jan 22, 2010  |  Updated 6:15 PM EDT
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Google's China Spat Now Officially an International Incident

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Hillary Clinton wonders why the Chinese government doesn't open up Internet access and then spy on its users like America does.

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In a speech yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on governments around the world to stop censoring the Internet and allow the "freedom to connect" online.

While she didn't single out China -- she also mentioned Iran, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, among others (though, interestingly, not Australia, which also plans to blacklist websites) -- the timing of the speech was pretty clearly meant to address the ongoing dispute between Google and the Chinese government.

Google has threatened to stop censoring search results delivered in China, which could get the site blocked behind the Great Firewall of China and the company kicked out of the country. Google-owned YouTube has already been blocked in China.

Clinton did ask the Chinese government "to provide an explanation for the cyberattacks originating on Chinese soil that led Google to this decision." Chinese officials have denied having any role in online espionage.

The speech did not go over well with Chinese officials, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu urging the United States "to respect the facts and cease using so-called Internet freedom to make groundless accusations against China."

Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei was also quoted by government news agency Xinhua calling the American position on Internet freedom "information imperialism."

Of course, the U.S. has its own problems with Internet freedom. Yesterday, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Vaughn Walker dismissed a suit brought against the U.S. government for illegally wiretapping Internet and phone communications without warrants.

Because so many Americans were affected by the program, the case against the National Security Agency wasn't specific to the plaintiffs but a "general grievance" according to Walker.

Jackson West figures as an American he has the freedom to connect, but not the freedom to do it privately.

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