Rep. Chris Cox (R-CA) press release.
Re: criticism of China's restrictions on encryption use.
Date: January 26, 2000.
Source: Office of Rep. Cox.
Editor's Notes: Hypertext links have been added.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Wednesday, January 26, 2000)-U.S. Representative Christopher Cox today condemned the adoption by the People's Republic of China of a "no privacy" policy on Internet use within China as "incompatible with the free markets of today's world."

The PRC's decision to ban U.S.-manufactured encryption software for all domestic and foreign companies in China, Rep. Cox added, "flies in the face of their stated willingness to live by the norms of the World Trade Organization."

"Censoring the Internet, invading the privacy of individuals through government spying, and stifling e-commerce are barbaric throwbacks to the days of Mao," Rep. Cox said. "This is precisely contrary to the approach the PRC must follow if it becomes a member of the World Trade Organization."

The Associated Press reported from Beijing Wednesday that the PRC has "ordered companies to register computer programs used to transmit sensitive data," and also ordered "vendors to reveal the workings of their software." The AP predicted that the move "may scare off foreign companies seeking to profit from the Chinese Internet boom."

The dispatch also noted that the new rules "expand China's vague state secrets laws to the Internet. Everyone, from Internet sites to chat-room users, must gain approval from agencies protecting government secrets before publishing previously unreleased information on the Web, according to the State Secrecy Bureau regulations released in People's Daily."

"Perhaps most chilling for business," the AP continued, "are regulations ordering companies and individuals to register with the government, by next Monday, the software used to protect transfers of sensitive information. Forms require companies to hand over the serial numbers and list the employees using the software, possibly making it easier for the government to track use."

The PRC decision comes on the same day that the PRC Central Propaganda Department announced a conference aimed at planning "to strictly monitor the Internet," according to the newspaper Hong Kong Ming Pao. The paper also reported that "beginning from the latter half of last year, the CPC [Communist Party of China] launched an unprecedented 'offensive' against the Internet ... closed a number of 'disobedient' websites, severely punished and even meted out sentences against those leaking secrets through the Internet, and banned the nonmedia websites from hiring reporters and releasing news."

Rep. Cox replied:

"Just as the Clinton administration has joined Congressional leaders in agreeing to export U.S. encryption software to non-government users without obtaining a license, the PRC has moved to prohibit the use of such software by Chinese citizens and even foreign companies operating there. Our policy toward China is to seek freedom for its people. That hope is diminished today as the Communist government has erected a substantial new barrier to freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and free markets in China."

"Furthermore," Rep. Cox continued, "the Ministry of State Security reportedly is now deciding how it will 'punish those who violate the rules.' This is consistent with the PRC's grotesque pattern of using criminal punishment to prevent freedom of thought and expression. Lin Hai, a 30-year-old software executive and Web page designer, recently was sentenced to prison for supposedly 'inciting subversion of state power.' His so-called 'crime' was exchanging e-mail addresses with an anti-communist group in America. If Lin Hai had been able to keep the contents of his computer messages away from the prying eyes of the Ministry of State Security-using encryption from commercially available U.S. software-he would be a free man today. That is the cynical reason for today's crackdown on freedom by the PRC."