The debate over Chinese internet censorship is only beginning. The role of Western multinationals operating in a country that forces filtering is both a human rights issue and, according to this group, something more economic:
A California free speech group whose board of directors includes Google and Yahoo said on Monday it had asked U.S. trade officials to challenge China’s Internet restrictions as a violation of global trade rules.
The issue threatens to further strain U.S.-China trade relations if the U.S. Trade Representative’s office decides to take on the case. With China already the world’s second-largest Internet market with over 162 million Web users, the commercial stakes are huge.
“China’s censorship of the Internet, while fundamentally an issue of free speech and individual liberty, is also a significant barrier to U.S.-China commerce, and therefore, very much a trade issue,” Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, said in a statement that came as top U.S. officials were in Beijing for economic talks.
“In infringing the rights of its 1.2 billion citizens, China is also infringing the rights of American companies to sell goods and services to consumers in China, via the Internet,” he said.