China Strikes Back At Google

Google had characterized the Chinese government's Internet restrictions as a trade barrier.
Proxies for the Chinese government are criticizing Google's efforts to characterize China's Internet restrictions as a trade barrier.

The public rhetoric is China's first reaction to Google's move earlier in June to enlist the help of American and European governments to urge the communist nation to lift Internet censorship restrictions, saying such rules violate China's obligations under the World Trade Organization.

"Censorship, in addition to being a human rights problem, is a trade barrier. If you look at what China does -- the censorship, of course, is for political purposes but it is also used as a way of keeping multinational companies disadvantaged in the market," said Google's chief legal officer David Drummond during a press conference earlier this month that set up the confrontation.

Over the weekend, leading Internet and trade experts in China fired back.

"China's Internet administration is not a system of trade policies; it is domestic policies formulated based on China's domestic laws and regulations. Even the WTO cannot intervene in this regard," said Tu Xinquan, VP of the WTO Research Center at Beijing's University of International Business and Economics, in an interview with state-run media Xinhua, long considered a key mouthpiece of the Communist Party leadership.

The paper also said "China's Internet administration treated domestic and foreign Internet companies equally and without discrimination, so Google's objective would fail under the WTO's anti-discrimination rules."

Other experts lined up to say China has the right to restrict Internet content that threatened state power and national unity, infringed on national "honor" and interests, or incited ethnic hatred and secession, as well as pornography and terrorism.

"Unfettered Internet freedom does not exist in any country," said Hu Yanping, general manager of the privately run data center of China Internet Research Institute.

Google's much publicized fight with Chinese government officials over censorship led to the company shutting down its local search engine and rerouting all requests to Hong Kong, which is uncensored. The company still maintains offices in Beijing, but it's under increasing pressure as the non-search parts of its business, such as Google Maps, find it harder to do business in China and may not have their business licenses renewed.