China’s sprawling Internet censorship regime is harming the country’s economic and scientific progress, a senior official has said in a rare public rebuke of long-standing Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policy.
Internet restrictions had also cooled enthusiasm among overseas investors and should be relaxed for politically innocuous content, said Luo Fuhe (羅富合), vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the top advisory body to the Chinese National People’s Congress.
It is a rare criticism of the country’s censorship policies, which have become more severe since Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) assumed power in 2012.
Chinese officials rarely comment on Internet censorship, other than to emphasize the need to respect the country’s laws.
However, Luo might 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 CCP allows to shore up its democratic credentials.
China runs one of the world’s most sophisticated Internet censorship systems. Known as the “Great Firewall,” it completely blocks many foreign Web sites.
“From within China, attempting to visit the UN Food and Agriculture Organization or a lot of foreign university Web sites is very slow,” Luo said. “Opening each page takes at least 10 to 20 seconds and some foreign university sites need more than half an hour to open.”
Slow Internet speeds and the increasing number of banned sites would have a significant effect on China’s economic and social development and scientific research, Luo said.
“Some researchers rely on software to climb over the firewall to complete their own research tasks. This is not normal,” he added.
Additional reporting by AP
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