China: CPJ concerned about access to Google

September 4,, 2002

His Excellency Jiang Zemin
President, People’s Republic of China
C/o Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20008

Via facsimile: (202) 588-0032

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is very concerned by the Chinese government’s apparent blocking of domestic access to the Google Internet search engine. Such censorship directly affects China-based journalists’ ability to conduct research and impedes citizens’ access to news that is unavailable in China’s tightly controlled domestic media.

On August 31, both the English and Chinese-language search engines operated by Google became inaccessible to Internet users in China. In a public statement, a spokesperson for Google confirmed that the site was blocked inside China and said that the government offered no explanation.

Google is one of the most popular Internet search engines in China and one of the only sites that allows users unfettered access to information. Your government routinely blocks access to Web sites, including those of foreign news organizations and human rights groups, but this is the first time a search engine has been blocked.

Legislation enacted on August 1 requires all China-based Web sites to censor their content or risk being closed down. As a result, most major Chinese-language search engines, including Yahoo’s Chinese-language site, have filtered out the majority of sites containing information that is not sanctioned by your government, including independent reporting on political developments, human rights abuses, and the banned spiritual group Falun Gong. The U.S.-based Google has therefore become Chinese citizens’ only means to access thousands of Web sites containing news and information that is unavailable inside China.

We respectfully urge Your Excellency to take steps to ensure that authorities restore access to Google immediately and uphold the right to free expression as guaranteed in both the Chinese constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China has signed. We also call on you to ease restrictions requiring Internet companies in China to censor information in order to conduct business in your country.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We await your response.


Ann Cooper
Executive Director