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IT companies urged to help human rights in China

2008 Olympics should bring around Net change

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A human rights group has called on computer and Internet companies involved in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing to use their influence to bring about reform in China.

Sidney Jones, Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) said: "This is one area where human rights and corporate interests should coincide

"More people will use Internet services, e-mail, and related technologies if they don't have to worry about getting arrested."

"As the Olympic momentum builds, Chinese Web sites are going to proliferate.

"The corporate sponsors are going to have to choose between helping China open up by getting these controls removed, or abetting repression by giving the government the technology for Internet censorship," he said.

In its report Freedom of Expression and the Internet in China HRW points out that the Chinese authorities have introduced more than sixty sets of regulations to govern Internet content since the government began permitting commercial Internet accounts in 1995.

Describing the conditions suffered by Net users in China, the report singles out the Beijing-based Feiyu Internet Cafe in Beijing. There, employees of the cybercafe routinely peer over people's shoulders and check their screens to ensure users are not accessing illegal content.

A note on each monitor reads: "The Feiyu Web Bar Warns its Clients: Please do Not Download Web Pages with Illicit, Violent or Reactionary Content…"

The report also details the plight of 14 Net users who have either been arrested or detained by the Chinese authorities.

Chi Shouzhu, for example, is currently in Lingyuan Prison, Liaoning Province, after being detained by police in April for downloading "political" articles from overseas Web sites.

And last August, school teacher, Jiang Shihua, was sentenced to two years in prison after posting a number of articles criticising the Government on a bulletin board, the report said. ®

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