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|Release Date:||July 13, 2012|
|Source Agency:||Congressional Research Service|
The People s Republic of China (PRC) has the world s largest number of Internet users, estimated at 500 million people. Despite government efforts to limit the flow of online news, Chinese Internet users are able to access unprecedented amounts of information, and political activists have utilized the Web as a vital communications tool. In recent years, Twitter-like microblogging has surged, resulting in dramatic cases of dissident communication and public comment on sensitive political issues. However, the Web has proven to be less of a democratic catalyst in China than many observers had hoped. The PRC government has one of the most rigorous Internet censorship systems, which relies heavily upon cooperation between the government and private Internet companies. Some U.S. policy makers have been especially critical of the compliance of some U.S. Internet communications and technology (ICT) companies with China s censorship and policing activities. The development of the Internet and its use in China have raised U.S. congressional concerns, including those related to human rights, trade and investment, and cybersecurity. The link between the Internet and human rights, a pillar of U.S. foreign policy towards China, is the main focus of this report. Congressional interest in the Internet in China is tied to human rights concerns in a number of ways. These include the following: The use of the Internet as a U.S. policy tool for promoting freedom of expression and other rights in China, The use of the Internet by political dissidents in the PRC, and the political repression that such use often provokes, The role of U.S. Internet companies in both spreading freedom in China and complying with PRC censorship and social control efforts, and The development of U.S. Internet freedom policies globally.