Amnesty International is calling on American tech companies that are seeking access to China’s domestic market not to turn a blind eye to the country’s severe internet-related human rights abuses, Amnesty International said ahead of a meeting between China’s President Xi Jinping and top US tech firms on Wednesday.
Senior executives from Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft are expected to attend the US-China Internet Industry Forum in Seattle, which is part of President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to the USA.
“US tech firms need to put people and principles before profit, and defend internet freedom. They must not turn a blind eye to China’s online repression in order to gain access to the lucrative Chinese market,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.
“If US tech firms get into bed with the Chinese government, they may end up being complicit in the imprisonment of people who are solely exercising their right to free expression online.”
China’s internet model severely restricts freedom of expression online. Since President Xi came to power, hundreds of people have been detained solely for expressing their views online.
The authorities continue to use criminal law to unjustifiably restrict freedom of expression and the right to privacy, including by detaining and imprisoning activists for online posts that fall foul of state censors.
A proposed new cyber security law would only exacerbate China’s already strict internet surveillance and censorship. The law would require service providers to store all personal data within China, and turn it over to the authorities without any independent oversight, to preserve “cyberspace sovereignty”.
According to the New York Times, the Chinese authorities recently wrote to major US tech firms asking them to pledge their commitment to such practices.
“Internet freedom is under attack across the world. On Wednesday, major tech firms need to unequivocally reject China’s concept of cyberspace sovereignty and refuse to handover data to the Chinese authorities if they don’t want to be complicit in the crackdown,” said William Nee.