President Xi Jinping meeting with US tech giants highlights challenges of doing business in China under censorship regime

The State visit of President Xi Jinping to the United States features today a major forum hosted by the Chinese leader involving the CEOs of leading US high tech firms including Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook and IBM.

Lu Wei, the highest official in the Chinese government in charge of Internet policy and cyber-security, who oversees a complex and aggressive system of online censorship, will also attend the U.S.-China Internet Industry Forum with the CEOs of Alibaba and Weibo.

The meeting will take place at a time of increased tensions between the United States and China regarding cyber espionage.

This week U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice issued a stern warning to China that state-sponsored cyber espionage must stop, calling it a national security concern. And the CCP’s new national security law, reflecting a priority of ensuring control and dominance, requires foreign firms to provide ‘back doors’ in software to enable surveillance and monitoring by the Chinese state.

Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “The brands of these tech firms connote a sense of personal freedom and individuality, since they empower citizens to communicate and share information in ways unforeseen just a decade ago. The situation in China and in Tibet is very different from that in the United States and other democratic countries; in China the information flow is strictly monitored and censored by the State and citizens can be convicted for expressing views contrary to the State propaganda. While meeting Xi Jinping, US tech firms should not fail to express concern about the trends in Tibet and the PRC, and should stay away from endorsing a business model that denies freedom of expression to over a billion people. It would be worrisome if US tech firms would be willing to put their servers in China under the control and jurisdiction of the Chinese government and allow access to sensitive information shared among citizens.”

In Tibet, a new generation of Tibetans is paying a high price with their lives for peaceful expression of views in a political climate in which almost any expression of Tibetan identity or culture not directly sanctioned by the state, no matter how mild, can be characterized by the authorities as ‘splittist’ and therefore ‘criminal’ .

For example, Kunchok Tsephel, an official in a Chinese government environmental department and founder of the influential Tibetan literary website, Chodme ‘Butter-Lamp’, www.tibetcm.com, is serving 15 years in prison on charges of ‘disclosing state secrets’. Some of the charges are believed to relate to content on his website, which aims to protect Tibetan culture, and the website has now been closed down.

A secretive surveillance network called ‘Skynet’ network has divided Tibet into a closely monitored grid, and internet and tech monitoring is an integral element of this system.

 

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