A Chinese government news portal released a photograph on Monday of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with a copy of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) book on governance at his desk while hosting the country’s top Internet regulator.
Zuckerberg, who has long sought market access to China, where Facebook is blocked, was quoted by China.com.cn as saying he purchased several copies of Xi’s book so he and colleagues could learn about “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
The California-based company did not immediately respond to inquiries regarding the visit to Facebook’s offices by Chinese Internet regulator Lu Wei (魯煒).
The gesture, interpreted as an effort by Zuckerberg to court the government, disappointed and angered activists in China, who have long held the social networking company in high regard for its ability to share information beyond the tight controls of the Chinese Communist Party.
“Mr Zuckerberg is either ignorant of China’s politics or shameless,” said prominent dissident Hu Jia (胡佳), who called Lu a top enemy of Internet freedom and expressed concern that technology giants such as Facebook were kowtowing to Beijing for their own business interests. “He is an Internet genius who should understand the power of technology for social change.”
China.com.cn, controlled by China’s Internet Information Office and another government agency, said the photograph was taken at Facebook’s Menlo Park office and that Xi’s book The Governance of China was at Zuckerberg’s workstation when he hosted Lu.
“I bought this book for my colleagues as well,” Zuckerberg was quoted as telling Lu. “I want them to understand socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
The photograph shows a beaming Lu sitting in Zuckerberg’s work chair, with the Facebook founder smiling and standing next to him.
“In that photo, Lu Wei looks the part of a boss,” Hu said in a telephone interview. “I feel ashamed for Facebook and sorry for Mr Zuckerberg. When you yield to the executioners of the Internet, they will only become more arrogant.”
A cartoon posted online showed Zuckerberg in a Chinese military outfit holding a bayonet and clutching Xi’s book to his chest. Some commenters joked that he was close to joining the Chinese Communist Party, although others suggested that Zuckerberg might have placed Xi’s book on his desk merely for show.
It was not clear when the visit took place, but Lu was in the US last week to attend a Chinese-American Internet conference at which Beijing pushed for a louder voice in the management of the Internet. China also argued in favor of the concept of “information sovereignty,” which could help justify its tight controls over Internet information.
The Web site report also included photographs of Lu with Apple chief executive Tim Cook, who appears to be showing him a wristwatch-like device.
Baidu Inc (百度) vice president Zhu Guang (朱光) accompanied Lu to the meetings, the Web site reported. The Web site also posted pictures with Lu talking to Amazon chief executive Jeffrey Bezos.
It did not provide further details.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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