China blogger fired after meeting with John Kerry

FREEDOM DETERIORATING::The blogger published one instruction for Web sites to delete a Taiwanese singer’s video because it showed a ‘Free Tibet’ scarf


Mon, May 26, 2014 - Page 5

A Chinese blogger who called on US Secretary of State John Kerry to push for Internet freedom in China has been fired by his employer, he told reporters yesterday.

Journalist Zhang Jialong (張賈龍) was one of four bloggers who met with Kerry in February; he urged the US to help “tear down [Beijing’s] great Internet firewall.”

Beijing tightly censors the Internet, barring access to such Web sites as Facebook and Twitter with a system labeled the “Great Firewall of China,” and ordering domestic Internet firms to delete content that government officials deem “sensitive.”

Zhang’s employer Tencent Holdings Ltd dismissed him on Friday for what it called “leaking business secrets and other confidential and sensitive information,” he said, calling it a reprisal for his meeting with Kerry.

Zhang said that authorities at Tencent, one of China’s best-known Internet firms, told him his dismissal was prompted by the meeting and his posting online of censorship orders issued by the Chinese government.

Directives published by Zhang included an instruction for Web sites to delete a video by a Taiwanese singer because it briefly showed “a man on an ambulance wearing a Free Tibet scarf.”

“Tencent told me they reached the decision after consulting with the government, so it’s a political decision,” Zhang said, adding that “the situation for online freedom in China is getting worse.”

Tencent’s Beijing office could not immediately be reached for comment on Saturday.

China has more than 600 million Internet users, the largest online population in the world.

The Chinese Communist Party has long been engaged in a “cat and mouse” game with Internet users, tightening restrictions in periodic crackdowns before new forums emerge to challenge restraints.

The rising popularity of microblogs in recent years has triggered a Chinese government-backed campaign to assert greater control over social media.

China’s Supreme People Court last year said that Internet users could face three years in jail if “slanderous” information spread online was viewed more than 5,000 times or forwarded more than 500 times.

Hundreds of Internet users have been detained under the regulation, rights groups say.