The Chinese government has told a small group of journalists that its campaign of cracking down on the internet is not politically motivated, but is instead a ‘long-lasting’ mission to make the ‘net a better place for the people of China.
Since the campaign began, the Chinese government has closed down more than 1,200 websites, including popular blogging site Bullog.cn, where a number of posters had signed the controversial Charter 08, demanding a more democratic China.
But speaking to a small group of invited journalists, Liu Zhengrong, deputy director of the State Council Information Office’s Internet Bureau, was quick to quash the idea that there was a political motivation for the crackdown, saying “The purpose of this campaign is very clear, it’s aimed at creating a healthy internet environment for all young people and making the internet in China safer and more reliable.”
“Internet pornography and vulgar content seriously threaten the mental and physical health of youth and threaten to damage the healthy development of the internet in China,” Liu continued, adding that more than 35 percent of web surfers in China were under 19.
Commentators have been quick to point out however, that 2009 is the 20th anniversary of the Tianamen Square protests, and suggest the government is in fact moving to stifle dissent in this sensitive time. Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch said, “The internet remains where the battle for information lies and the fact that the government is devoting so much effort at reining it in, in itself indicates how much of a threat they perceive it to be.”