OpenNet InitiativeTestimony Before the U.S.-China Commission

Today, the OpenNet Initiative is releasing its report, “Internet Filtering in China in 2004-2005,” at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s public hearing on China’s State Control Mechanisms and Methods.  The following is my testimony before the commission earlier today.

April 14, 2005

Written Statement of: John G. Palfrey, Jr.
Executive Director, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard Law School

Before the U.S. – China Economic and Security Review Commission Hearing on China’s State Control Mechanisms and Methods

Mister Chairman, Madame Co-Chair, Distinguished Members of the Commission:
My name is John Palfrey, and I am the executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, where I also teach on Internet-related subjects as a Lecturer on Law.  I am a member of a team of researchers, called the OpenNet Initiative, based at the University of Toronto, the University of Cambridge, and Harvard Law School, that has been conducting rigorous empirical testing of China’s Internet filtering regime for the past several years.  The report we present to you today builds on a similar report we released in 2002.  My colleagues Ronald Deibert of the University of Toronto, Rafal Rohozinski of the University of Cambridge, and Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard Law School are also principal authors of this report.  We have also studied in depth the filtering regimes of states in the Middle East, the former Soviet republics, and parts of East Asia.  I am joined today by my colleagues Nart Villeneuve, the Director of Technical Research at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, and Derek Bambauer, a research fellow at the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School. 

Today the Commission considers China’s mechanisms and methods of state control.  While China seeks to grow its economy through use of new technologies, the state’s actions suggest a deep-seated fear of the effect of free and open communications made possible by the Internet.  This fear has led the Chinese government to create the world’s most sophisticated Internet filtering regime.

The People’s Republic of China has the most extensive and effective legal and technological systems for Internet censorship and surveillance in the world today.  China’s system prevents users from accessing most politically sensitive content on the Internet, including information about opposition political groups, independence movements, the Falun Gong spiritual movement, the Dalai Lama, and the Tiananmen Square incident.  China’s system blocks virtually all BBC content and much CNN content online.  The Chinese government has imposed significant legal and technical restrictions that prevent the publication of and access to content sensitive to the government.

China’s filtering has advanced far beyond the comparatively limited filtering regimes in place in other states and, since we last tested China’s filtering systems in 2002, its approach has become markedly more sophisticated and successful. The success of China’s filtering efforts lies in its reliance on multiple, overlapping filtering methods and systems. China’s filtering takes place at multiple levels, including at access points such as cybercaf

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