January 16, 2010

Google Takes a Stand Against Chinese Censorship

In what hopefully will be the first in a cascade of reactions to the usual threats and intiminations of China's ruling class, Google is firmly placing its logo on the side of liberty, and I say Right ON!!! The International Campaign for Tibet reports the following:

13 January, 2010
International Campaign for Tibet

Google decision a "crack in the wall of censorship" that sets new standard

Google's decision to halt censorship on its search engine in China and its threat to pull out of the Chinese market in response to cyber-attacks that seek to access the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists sets a new standard for other companies operating in China. A Google blog this morning (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/) announcing the decision was front page news worldwide.
[...]  The latest news from Google comes in the context of stepped-up efforts by Chinese government authorities to criminalize information-sharing and pursue charges of "subversion" for online, email or phone discussions with the outside world about the situation in Tibet. Beijing has set up a new task force within the Public Security Bureau specifically targeted at the "fabrication and spreading of rumors," according to an official press report (Tibet Daily, December 26, 2008). This initiative has led to numerous detentions, and supports the trend identified by ICT of harsher punishments meted out for Tibetans who receive and impart information and opinions than for some Tibetans who actually take part in demonstrations.
Kunchok Tsephel, an official in a Chinese government environmental department and founder of the influential Tibetan literary website, Chodme ('Butter-Lamp,' www.tibetcm.com), was sentenced to 15 years in prison in November 2009 on charges believed to relate to content on his website, which aims to protect Tibetan culture, and to passing on information about protests in Tibet in 2008. (http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/founder-tibetan-cultural-website-sentenced-15-years-closed-door-trial-freedom-expression-c).

Norzin Wangmo, a Tibetan woman and Communist Party member, is serving a five-year prison sentence for passing on news over the phone and Internet about the situation in Tibet to the outside world (http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/disappearances-continue-across-tibet-tibetan-woman-sentenced-talking-telephone).[...] 
Google's announcement comes one day before a scheduled speech by Google CEO Eric Schmidt to a meeting of Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives tonight (January 13).
Mary Beth Markey concluded: "For 20 years, we've battled against putting profits in the China market ahead of human rights. It's impossible for us not to see Google's decision as anything but a real victory for the people and those who support their struggle for greater freedoms. It is fitting that Mr. Schmidt is meeting with members of the House this evening, many of whom, including Nancy Pelosi and, of course, the late Tom Lantos, have cautioned U.S. companies that it is in their self-interest to take on a stronger role in the development of both more progressive economic and political systems in China."[...]

The Epoch Times reported the story of Kunchok Tsephel on Nov. 9:
Tibetan Web Site Founder Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison
By Matthew Robertson
Epoch Times Staff
The founder of an influential Tibetan literary Web site was sentenced to 15 years in prison after a closed-door trial on Nov. 12.
Kunchok Tsephel, 39, is accused of “divulging state secrets,” a vague charge used by the Chinese authorities to punish dissidents of all stripes. Under such laws, the Chinese authorities are not required to explain which state secrets the defendant is alleged to have divulged.
The charges probably relate to content posted on his Web site, Chodme (butter lamp), which seeks to protect Tibetan culture. He is also accused of passing on information about last year’s protests in Tibet, according to the activist group which released the news.[...]

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