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Freedom House commentary on China: 2006-2014

As President Barack Obama travels in Asia to emphasize the United States' focus on the region, China and its domestic and foreign policies cast large shadows. Political repression in China is often seen as a constant, but the methods of Chinese political control have grown more sophisticated and increasingly affect free expression beyond China's borders. Freedom House has chronicled the growing reach of Chinese government repression since 2006. Here is a sampling of Freedom House commentary:

"Beijing's control of the Internet … represents just once facet of an intricate system of restrictions on the free circulation of ideas in China. The Chinese government is hoping to enjoy the benefits of the global economy without jeopardizing its political control." -- Jennifer Windsor, "Freedom House: New Report Details China Censorship Mechanisms," Freedom House Press Release, February 9, 2006


"Beijing's controlling approach to media, particularly of the Internet, appears to be gaining traction beyond China's borders… China is already believed to share censorship technology and know-how with a number of governments in the region." -- Christopher Walker and Sarah Cook, "China's Commercialization of Censorship," Far Eastern Economic Review, May 2, 2009


"If the past is any guide, it is the most sinister and shocking features of a dictatorship that are the likeliest to emerge when [China] hosts the Olympics. For Germany in 1936, it was anti-Semitism and militarism; for the Soviet Union in 1980, it was imperial aggression. Whatever happens in China in 2008, there is no evidence that democracy will be enhanced, human rights will be improved, or the suffering of the Chinese people will be alleviated. As for the International Olympic Committee, it seems to have learned little or nothing from its own past mistakes." -- Arch Puddington, "China Games," Commentary Magazine, October 23, 2007


"We're just beginning to understand the lengths to which the Chinese Communist Party went to systematically crush dissent in the name of the Olympics. Behind all of the pomp and glitter, an untold number of Chinese citizens are now languishing in prison camps, prisons or simply missing as a result of these Games… The IOC consistently demonstrated that it was unwilling to use its influence to push China's Communist leaders to make even basic reforms. Without intervention now, I can guarantee that Russia will deliver a repeat performance of China's most grievous human rights abuses." -- Jennifer Windsor, "Authoritarian Olympics Should Not Be Repeated," Freedom House Press Release, August 22, 2008


"With every arrest, Party leaders watch to see how the world will react. When there's silence, when Western states continue to dutifully roll out the red carpet for every Chinese delegation, when abuses barely get mentioned at press conferences, then Chinese security agencies step up arrests…That is why the international community cannot stand on the sidelines. Silence is a stance in itself—a stance on the side of the authoritarian Communist Party's regime." -- Sarah Cook, "Beijing is Listening to our Silence," National Post, January 18, 2008


"Pollution, skyscrapers and development reflect China's rapid economic growth, not political change. There have been no significant political reforms in China since the 1980s. Meanwhile, economic growth has enabled more intense but sophisticated political repression." -- Ellen Bork, "Don't Forget about China's Dissidents," Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2008


"While 'no strings attached' is commonly used to describe China's approach in the developing world, the reality is not quite so benign. A combination of subtle and not-so-subtle conditions typically accompanies this largesse. Included among these is pressure to muzzle voices critical of the Chinese government, often undermining basic freedoms of expression and assembly in these countries." -- Christopher Walker and Sarah Cook, "The Dark Side of China Aid," New York Times, March 25, 2010


"The Chinese Communist Party's attempts to control the Internet affect much more than just its own citizens. In addition to domestic censorship practices, a growing number of sophisticated technical attacks are originating in China against organizations and companies outside of its borders." -- Robert Guerra, "As China Internet Controls Increase, Freedom House Calls for Urgent International Response," Freedom House Press Release, July 15, 2010


"Economic coercion, rather than cultural pressure, has become China's principal tactic for suppressing sensitive issues abroad. Government representatives will typically wait until an event has already been planned, or even already begun, then pressure organizers or local authorities with explicit or implicit threats of boycotts, trade sanctions, or withdrawals of government funding in order to suppress activities deemed undesirable by the Chinese Communist Party…More insidious has been an indirect form of economic intimidation, whereby publications, event organizers, or governments engage in self-censorship on topics deemed sensitive to the mainland, a dynamic some have dubbed 'preemptive kowtowing'." -- Arch Puddington and Christopher Walker, "Saying the Unsayable: Revisiting International Censorship," World Affairs Journal, November/December 2010


"Sadly, foreign correspondents are now experiencing what is already a day-to-day reality for Chinese journalists and activists. The authorities are seeking to pull down a curtain over important events in China." -- David Kramer, "Freedom House Condemns Chinese Authorities' Crackdown on Foreign Media," Freedom House Press Release, March 4, 2011


"President Obama's first meeting with President Xi is a crucial opportunity to stress that human rights and progress toward democracy are closely tied to the United States' other political and economic interests. Experience has taught us that genuine, sustainable cooperation is impossible if one of the parties consistently represses its own people, mistreats minority groups, and suppresses freedom of expression." -- David Kramer, "Obama Should Press Xi on Human Rights in China," Freedom House Press Release, June 6, 2013


"Much is at stake in this global contest between the Chinese government's power and media freedom. China is too important a country for the world not to be fully aware of what is happening on the ground and for Chinese people to lose vital sources of independent information and commentary." -- Sarah Cook, "New Report Shows Growing International Reach of Chinese Media Censorship," Freedom House Press Release, October 22, 2013

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