China on Thursday defended its right to police the Internet, one day after four American technology giants appeared before Congress on charges they collaborated with Beijing to crush free speech online in return for market access.
"It is normal for countries to manage the Internet in accordance with law and to guide its development in a healthy and orderly fashion," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said. "China has also borrowed and learned from the United States and other countries in the world."
While China encourages use of the Internet for business and education, it strictly monitors the Web and censors anything it considers critical or a threat to the ruling Communist Party.
Representatives from Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Google Inc. on Wednesday faced harsh questioning from U.S. lawmakers at a hearing of a House of Representatives International Relations subcommittee in Washington.
Yahoo has been accused of providing information that led to the jailing of two of its Chinese e-mail users, while Google started a Chinese version of its popular search engine that omits links to content deemed unacceptable by the government. Microsoft shut down, at Beijing's request, a popular Chinese blog that touches on sensitive topics such as press freedoms.
Analysts have said that U.S. tech companies eyeing China's market of 110 million Internet users face a tough dilemma of wanting to tap into an enormous consumer base and following Chinese laws, which give way to the perception they're helping China harass dissidents.