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US, UN should confront China on Web policy-scholar

Written by: Staff
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TOKYO, March 3 (Reuters) A Chinese scholar and vocal critic of the Communist Party's propaganda machine called on the United States, UN agencies and international media to confront China over its efforts to impose Internet controls.

Jiao Guobiao, a Chinese journalism professor who was pressured out of his job in March 2005 after denouncing China's propaganda controls in an article circulated on the Internet, said such a task may be too daunting for foreign Internet companies to handle by themselves.

''It might be a better proposition for the US government or for a suitable organ under the United Nations or other international bodies to confront the Chinese government on this issue,'' Jiao said today at a news conference in Tokyo.

''It's also perhaps an even better suggestion to let all the freedom-loving media organisations around the world group together and confront the Chinese government on this issue,'' he said, speaking through an interpreter.

Google Inc. has come under fire after it announced in January that it would block politically sensitive terms on its new Chinese site to avoid a confrontation with the government.

In February, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group for journalists, said Yahoo Inc. provided electronic records to Chinese authorities that led to an eight-year prison sentence for writer Li Zhi in 2003.

In September, Yahoo was accused of helping Chinese authorities identify Shi Tao, who was accused of leaking state secrets abroad and was sentenced last April to 10 years in prison.

Asked about Google and Yahoo, Jiao said the Chinese government should face criticism for its actions.

''A civilised government should not resort to such draconian means,'' he said, adding that foreign Internet companies should stay in China despite such issues.

''Even for those Western providers who have submitted to initial Chinese government restrictions...there are ways and means in which they can still try to expand their room for manoeuvre and to provide useful services in the area of the free flow of information,'' he said.

Jiao has said he was forced out of his job after months of political persecution from Chinese authorities in reaction to his article ''Crusade against the Propaganda Department'', circulated on the Internet in 2004.

In the article, Jiao called the Communist Party's Propaganda Department, which closely controls all news coverage in China, ''a stumbling block to the civilised development of Chinese society''.

REUTERS SHB RN1546

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