BEIJING – China on Thursday warned the United States not to use calls for uncensored access to the Internet as a pretext to interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu made the comment at a regular briefing when asked about Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's speech on Internet freedom on Tuesday.
Clinton said the administration would spend $25 million this year on initiatives designed to protect bloggers and help them get around curbs such as the Great Firewall of China, the gagging of social media sites in countries including Iran and Egypt's recent unsuccessful attempt to thwart anti-government protests by pulling the plug on online communication.
China has the world's largest Internet market, with 457 million people online. The communist government promotes Internet use for business and education, but uses extensive controls, popularly known as the "Great Firewall," to block access to material considered subversive or pornographic.
Ma repeated the standard government position that Internet users in China enjoy freedom of speech "in accordance with the law," and said China was willing to work with other countries on Internet-related issues.
"But we are against any other countries using Internet freedom as a pretext for interfering in others' internal affairs," Ma said.
It is the second time since becoming America's top diplomat that Clinton has criticized Internet censorship in China in a major address about online freedom. After her first speech on the issue in January last year, China issued a stinging response, accusing Washington of damaging relations between the two countries by imposing its "information imperialism" on China.
Since Clinton's speech, comments about it have been deleted on China's popular Twitter-like microblog sites, while searches for "Hillary" in Chinese were blocked on one site.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Buangan confirmed a statement from Ambassador Jon Huntsman to The Wall Street Journal after some of the Embassy's posted comments on Clinton's speech were deleted.
"We are disappointed that some Chinese Internet sites have decided to remove discussion of Secretary Clinton's Internet Freedom speech from their websites," Huntsman told the newspaper. "It is ironic that the Chinese are blocking an online discussion about Internet freedom."
Associated Press writer Cara Anna contributed to this story.