Beijing official says Chinese have no need for blocked websites

Wed Mar 25, 2015 5:53am EDT
 
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By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) - If Beijing is successful in its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics then foreigners who attend will get uncensored Internet access, but this isn't an issue for Chinese who "don't like" sites like Facebook and Twitter, an official said on Wednesday.

China keeps a tight rein on its Internet. The government has warned that social media, particularly foreign services, could be a destabilizing force for Chinese society or even affect the country's security.

Popular foreign social media sites like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook as well as Google Inc's main search engine and Gmail service are all inaccessible in China without specialized software to vault what is known as the "Great Firewall".

China had committed to providing media with the same freedom to report on the 2008 Beijing summer Olympics as they enjoyed at previous Games.

But when the main press center opened, journalists complained of finding access to sites deemed sensitive to China's communist leadership blocked. A senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) official later admitted that some IOC officials cut a deal to let China block sensitive websites.

Wang Hui, spokeswoman for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games Bid Committee, told a news briefing that China was an open country committed to having an open Internet.

"Everyone always brings up Facebook and Twitter, but people around me don't like to use it," Wang said, when asked whether foreign visitors would access uncensored Internet access if the city won the 2022 Games.

"With our Weibo and WeChat, China's 650 million (web users) can freely use these tools to exchange and receive information," she said, referring to wildly popular Chinese social media tools which are subject to often quite strict government censorship.   Continued...

 
A picture illustration shows icons of WeChat and Weibo app in Beijing, December 5, 2013.  REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic