CHINA

Beijing denies crackdown on the Web

China has fought back against accusations of widespread censorship on the Internet following a damning report by Amnesty International. The claims by the human rights group come ahead of several politically sensitive anniversaries in 2009.

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AFP - Chinese authorities defended their Internet censorship practices Tuesday after rights group Amnesty International accused them of cracking down on the web ahead of politically sensitive anniversaries.

"The relevant accusation was made because they are ignorant of China's situation. It is not true," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

"The organisation that you mentioned has always been biased toward China and has not always been objective in viewing China."

Jiang was responding to an accusation by the London-based group that Beijing was blocking the Amnesty website in order to quell commemorations of anniversaries in 2009 that will be sensitive for China's communist leadership.

This year sees the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in Beijing, the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Democracy Wall movement and the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising.

But Jiang said China's enormous Internet population was proof of the government's tolerant Internet attitude.

"China takes a positive and open minded attitude toward the management of the Internet... for example we have 2.1 million websites and over 300 million netizens," Jiang said.

"Without a positive policy it would be impossible for such a rapid development of the Internet in China."

Amnesty urged Beijing Monday to re-establish its website in China immediately, while expressing concerns that the anniversaries would lead to greater Internet censorship.

The site remained blocked on Chinese Internet connections checked by AFP on Tuesday.

In the run-up to last year's Beijing Olympics in August, the Amnesty website and other politically sensitive sites were unblocked in an apparent effort by the Chinese authorities to defuse an embarrassing dispute over media freedom.

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