July 10, 2002,
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen:
I would like to take this opportunity to address some of the success and concerns we have had in utilizing cyber technology to advance the cause of freedom of conscience, association, and expression in China. It is known to all that over the past three years Falun Gong has stood out as the single, largest peaceful group that uses the latest information technology to break into the state-run media in China. In particular, recent world press are reporting that the state-run TV channels in many Chinese regions are broadcasting Falun Gong programming that exposes the horror stories of the Government's persecution.
Liberty vs. State-Sponsored Cyber Terrorism
Freedom of conscience, association, and expression is the hallmark of a civil, open, and transparent society, where individuals are guaranteed the right to inform or be informed of all information. On the contrary, a totalitarian regime such as China relies on censorship and control to maintain dictatorship. Thus, efforts for such freedom and liberty is not only helping provide these basic rights to those who do not have them, but also helping democratic values prevail in non-civil society.
According to one AP report (June 19, 2002), there are more than 30 million Internet users in China. After a cyber bar caught fire, at least 2,400 Internet cafes were closed in Beijing alone, cutting off access to the World Wide Web for many residents. South China Morning Post reported (June 29, 2002) that Shanghai's cyber-police have also launched a drive to ensure Internet firms censor information about pro-democracy activists, advocates of an independent Tibet, and practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. Zhang Xiaoyu, head of Internet News Division of the City Propaganda Bureau, said his office "is checking Web sites for any materials related to Falun Gong... or other information that is considered dangerous." He added further that in addition to inspecting all Shanghai Internet cafes, authorities had decided to examine content on Web sites. The Shanghai Daily claimed that Web sites publishing information from sources other than state-controlled media, such as foreign Web sites or newspapers, could be closed down.
Indeed, they have just done that. The Daily Telegraph website joined the BBC as the most prominent news sites now barred from the Chinese public. Furthermore, the BBC reported (July 5, 2002) that China blacked out BBC satellite transmission after accusing the corporation of violating its contract about what it can broadcast. It was severed following a news item that included materials about Falun Gong. According to Hong Kong Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (June 28, 2002), China has placed at least 500,000 overseas Web sites such as foreign newspapers, Falun Gong sites, and the sites of democracy and human rights activists on a prohibited access blacklist. Not only is Web use monitored and censored, the hard copy news magazines are also not exempt. South China Morning Post reported (June 22, 2002) that China banned the June 15 edition of The Economist magazine, as this issue contains subjects including treatment of Falun Gong practitioners, references to the 1989 pro-democracy movement, and strong criticism of China's stock markets.
The Hong Kong Information Centre also reports that China's Public Security Bureau in every province is now ordering Internet cafes to install "Filter King," "Internet Café Management Specialist," or other filtering software within two weeks. Such software has four major functions:
1. It puts over 500,000 overseas Web sites on a prohibited access blacklist, which is automatically updated and added to daily;
2. It puts the Web sites on the blacklist into police report rankings. For instance, ordinary foreign newspapers are Category 5, and Falun Gong sites are Category 1. When users go to these sites at Internet cafes, they will not be able to enter. Yet, the computer will report this to local Internet Café Security Control Centre, and the users will be traced.
3. The computers in every Internet café will automatically send a daily report to the Public Security Information Security Management Centre to report how many times and who have used the prohibited sites;
4. The Public Security Bureau will put ID numbers on users who frequently visit prohibited Web sites.
The Internet reality in China shows that the Government is using its latest cyber technology to engage in state-sponsored terrorism of its own citizens.
The Internet and Human Rights
Clearly, the Internet can serve as an effective tool for a totalitarian regime to engage in state-terrorism, as well as a vehicle to promote human rights and freedoms. The open and free flow of information is essential in building a transparent, civil society. With that in mind, we cannot help but ask these questions:
· Why is Beijing so afraid of the public having access to all available information?
· Why is it so important for this totalitarian regime to silence the voices of Falun Gong, which it previously endorsed for more than 7 years?
· What have the dictators done that they need to hide from the public?
Falun Gong websites have become the so-called Category 1 for censorship, because Beijing understands that if the public learns the truth of the government's persecution and fabricated propaganda, the regime will lose its legitimacy in the eyes of the public. Before the persecution began in July 1999, the Government actively promoted Falun Gong for its health benefits and moral principles of "Truth, Compassion, and Tolerance." The U.S. News and World Report ran a story in February, 1999, in which an official from the China Sports Commission said: "Falun Gong and other types of qigong can save each person 1,000 Yuan in annual medical fees. If 100 million people are practicing it, that's 100 billion Yuan saved per year in medical fees. Premier Zhu Rongji is very happy about that. The country could use the money right now." That comes out to more than ten billion U.S. dollars a year -- no small sum.
Now the story has changed. Over 100,000 Falun Gong practitioners have been sent to labour camps; at least 446 have been tortured to death. More than 1,000 are kept in mental hospitals. Millions have lost jobs, pensions, and even homes. This is the information that the Chinese president does not want the public to know.
In breaking down the cyber blockade, Falun Gong and its supporters have successfully utilized the latest digital technology to provide information with multiple Web mirror sites, sending online information in massive volume to all government institutions, communicating with people inside China including foreign reporters with secure, encrypted documents. With 70 to 100 million Falun Gong practitioners inside China, many local digital networks have also been established. In March 2002, the state cable networks in Changchun region (Northern China) broadcast Falun Gong materials to the public for 45 minutes. Later, TV stations in other regions also showed Falun Gong information. Yet, telling the truth and expressing the voice of freedom are also costly. Over four thousand people have been detained, and some were sentenced up to 16 years in jail.
To silence dissenting voices, Beijing routinely hacks Falun Gong websites and sends emails with viruses to people on its blacklist. The US News & World Report reported that Chinese security agency had even tried to use Falun Gong website to hack the site of US Transportation Department.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the Chinese firewall has been built with software developed in the West, and that selling and installing the latest technology is a lucrative source of business for software companies. One high-tech expert in Beijing was quoted by saying: "Some organizations have made some very serious money here by working with the Chinese on controlling the flow of information."
We call on government and business leaders to trade with China with conscience and moral principles. We are for free market trade, but the reality is that expressing trade alone for democratic change in China is a mission impossible--like training a tiger to become a vegetarian. It is unethical and even criminal to make a profit by helping a totalitarian regime conduct state-terrorism against its citizens. We appeal to the European Parliament to condemn the cyber terrorism by the Chinese government, and help take measures to ensure that the transfer of Western technology to China is for the well-being of its people and advancing the cause of human rights and freedoms, but not a tool of repression against civilians.
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