BEIJING, Jan. 22, 2010 — -- China fired back today at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her criticism of that country's Internet censorship, calling her words "against the facts" and warning that such talk could harm China-U.S. relations.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu this morning warned, "The U.S. side had criticized China's policies on Internet administration, alluding that China restricts Internet freedom. We firmly oppose such words and deeds, which were against the facts and would harm the China-U.S. relations."
In a speech on Internet freedom in Washington, D.C., Thursday, Clinton cautioned China about the dangers of censorship.
"The Internet has already been a source of tremendous progress in China and it's great that so many people there are now online," said Clinton, who also ordered a thorough investigation of the hacking of human rights activists' Google Gmail accounts.
"But countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of Internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century."
China's Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei was emphatic Thursday that "the Google case should not be linked with relations between the two governments and countries: otherwise it's an over-interpretation."
Tensions between Google and China arose last week when Google announced it had been the victim of cyber attacks, traced to China, that targeted the e-mail accounts of human rights activists both in China and overseas.
Google said it could "no longer in good conscience continue to filter or censor" its search engine in China. Internet searches for sensitive terms such as "Dalai Lama" and "Tiananmen Square" are blocked in China.
Chinese officials have repeatedly issued the statement that foreign companies operating in China must abide by her traditions and laws.