China slides internet declaration under conference attendees’ hotel room doors

21 Nov 2014

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China has urged attendees of its first World Internet Conference to approve the Wuzhen Declaration by slipping it under their hotel room doors at 11pm yesterday.

What’s more, the manifesto requested that any potential revisions needed to be submitted to the organising committee before 8am this morning (midnight Ireland time). And that was just the remaining group, as many attendees had already checked out since the main conference officially ended yesterday.

TechCrunch obtained the nine-point document, which calls on the “international community to work together to build an international internet governance system of multilateralism, democracy and transparency and a cyberspace of peace, security, openness and co-operation”.

Outlined is China’s belief that it should have tight control over the country’s internet: “Respect internet sovereignty of all countries,” read the declaration’s second point. “We should respect each country’s rights to the development, use and governance of the internet, refrain from abusing resources and technological strengths to violate other countries’ internet sovereignty, and build an internet order to equality and mutual benefit.”

Elsewhere, the piece asks for a crackdown on online pornography, violent content and anything else that might “damage the future of mankind”.

Censorship

The World Internet Conference, which began on Tuesday (18 November) in Wuzhen, has been interpreted as an effort by the Chinese government to increase its influence on global cyberspace rules. Amnesty International has condemned China’s practice of regularly blocking websites and has also pointed to the detainment of hundreds of people who have expressed their views online since President Xi Jinping came to power as suppressing freedom of expression.

“Internet freedom is under attack by governments across the world. Now China appears eager to promote its own domestic internet rules as a model for global regulation,” William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, said in a statement released as the conference got under way.

“This should send a chill down the spine of anyone that values online freedom. China’s internet model is one of extreme control and suppression. The authorities use an army of censors to target individuals and imprison many activists solely for exercising their right to free expression online.”

The Chinese authorities have blocked access to thousands of websites, including news outlet The New York Times and social networks Facebook and Twitter. Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong’s central business district recently moved the government to add photo-sharing app Instagram to the list after images of Hong Kong police using tear gas on protesters appeared online.

Envelope image via Shutterstock

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Dean is a freelance journalist and editor covering media.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com