Senior China government adviser criticizes web censorship

Bus ushers leap as they pose for a group photo at Tiananmen Square during a plenary session of the National People's Congress in Beijing, Saturday, March 4, 2017. China will raise its defense budget by about 7 percent this year, a government spokeswoman said Saturday, continuing a trend of lowered growth amid a slowing economy. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
A photographer finds a unique angle to photograph bus ushers at Tiananmen Square during a plenary session of the National People's Congress in Beijing, Saturday, March 4, 2017. China will raise its defense budget by about 7 percent this year, a government spokeswoman said Saturday, continuing a trend of lowered growth amid a slowing economy. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
Bus ushers toss their hats as they pose for a group photo at Tiananmen Square during a plenary session of the National People's Congress in Beijing, Saturday, March 4, 2017. China will raise its defense budget by about 7 percent this year, a government spokeswoman said Saturday, continuing a trend of lowered growth amid a slowing economy. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
Bus ushers take selfies on an empty street adjacent to the Great Hall of the People during the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing, Friday, March 3, 2017. Thousands of delegates have gathered at the Chinese capital for the opening of the annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which advises the rubberstamp parliament, whose annual session begins Sunday. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

BEIJING — A senior Chinese government adviser has warned that the country's internet censorship is hampering scientific research and economic development, in a rare public criticism of a sensitive policy that the government has vigorously defended.

Slow access to overseas academic websites have forced domestic researchers to buy software to circumvent China's site-blocking firewall, or even travel overseas to conduct research, Luo Fuhe, vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told reporters in Beijing. He described the lengths that Chinese researchers go to simply carry out their work as "not normal."

Luo's remarks, reported by state media, came as national leaders and thousands of appointed representatives are gathering in Beijing for the national legislature's annual session. Luo's conference, the CPPCC, is the official advisory body to the legislature, the National People's Congress.

Chinese officials rarely comment on internet censorship, other than to emphasize the need to respect the country's laws. However, Luo may have felt free to speak up because of his status as a vice chairman of the China Association for Promoting Democracy, one of eight minor political parties the ruling Communists permit to shore up their democratic credentials.

China's sophisticated internet censorship tools block numerous foreign social media and news websites, while discussion of political topics and other sensitive issues such as Tibet and Taiwan are routinely squelched.

However, the same tools also hamper access to vast swathes of the internet outside China, including some research and university websites, whether inadvertently or by design.

Many Chinese employ virtual private networks to scale the censors' blocks, known sometimes as "the Great Firewall of China."

Luo, who studied and researched agriculture before taking up his official posts, also noted that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Program's webpages took up to 20 seconds to load while "a famous foreign search engine" — an apparent reference to Google — was also blocked.

He recommended that the government determine which websites are off-limits with greater "precision" and allow full open access to sites frequented by researchers, particularly if they do not contain political content.

China's authoritarian government has recently renewed a push for a greater role in global internet governance based on restrictions and regulations rather than the principle of free-flow of information found in democratic societies.

Must Read

Valeant sells $2B in assets to begin paying down debt

Jan 10, 2017

Valeant will sell just over $2 billion in assets as it pays down debts after a year and a half of bruising backlash against some of its drug prices and government probes into the way it does business

Former Trump aide Flynn says lobbying may have helped Turkey

Mar 9, 2017

Former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn has filed reports with the Justice Department's foreign agent unit acknowledging that lobbying by his private consulting firm may have benefited the government of Turkey

Why the US trade gap could obstruct Trump's economic vision

Feb 7, 2017

The U.S. trade deficit hit a four-year peak in 2016 and is posing a tough challenge to President Donald Trump's drive to shrink the deficit, speed up the economy and create many more jobs

People also read these

Valeant sells $2B in assets to begin paying down debt

Jan 10, 2017

Valeant will sell just over $2 billion in assets as it pays down debts after a year and a half of bruising backlash against some of its drug prices and government probes into the way it does business

Former Trump aide Flynn says lobbying may have helped Turkey

Mar 9, 2017

Former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn has filed reports with the Justice Department's foreign agent unit acknowledging that lobbying by his private consulting firm may have benefited the government of Turkey

Why the US trade gap could obstruct Trump's economic vision

Feb 7, 2017

The U.S. trade deficit hit a four-year peak in 2016 and is posing a tough challenge to President Donald Trump's drive to shrink the deficit, speed up the economy and create many more jobs