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Companies line up for funding to break China's Firewall

Falun Gong versus the Great Firewall

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An organisation with links to Falun Gong is hoping to benefit from US government spending on breaking China's Great Firewall.

Last year Congress approved $15m in State Department funds to help “the advancement of information freedom in closed societies, including the Middle East and Asia”. This was generally interpreted as support for technologies which would help people avoid government restrictions on internet use especially in China.

But now a group of geeks and Falun Gong followers hopes to get a slice of this money. The Global Internet Freedom Consortium (GIFC) claims to be the largest and longest-running anti-censorship organisation.

It makes available several tools to help Chinese residents avoid the government's Great Firewall.

The group, made up of companies and individual programmers, said 90 per cent of its web traffic comes from China and Iran. GIFC compares China's Great Firewall with the Berlin Wall, and predicts it too will fall.

Spokesman for the group Zhou Shiyu told Reuters the service was not for technically literate users who can use virtual private networks and other methods to evade Chinese censorship. He said: "Our goal is not this elite user. We want to make this massive and decisive, to tear down the wall."

He told the newswire that about a million people a day use its software in China and about 400,000 in Iran. The original launch of a Farsi version crashed the organisation's web servers.

Although removing references to Falun Gong might make the Global Internet Freedom Consortium more palatable to US Congress, any funding from the US State Department could backfire on an organisation that needs to appear transparent and neutral. ®

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