Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hypocrisy of Chris Smith

In the New York Times today, an article reported that Congress, and specifically the House, is excoriating tech companies Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Cisco for their business operations in China.

From my perspective, I wonder why it is that most mp3 files, movies, and software can be distributed freely over the internet in China but not in the U.S. Those sites in China, infringing on copyrights of the record industry, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley (among others), are frequently blocked by the U.S. government. Yup, your right to access free content on the internet is restricted not in China but in the U.S. Is this a violation of your human rights?

The companies that go to China are bridging a divide. Gaining access to China, remember, only occurred in the past 25 years.

When I lived in China in 2000, the New York Times was blocked. Then, one day, it wasn't. People in China can and do read about news from the U.S. They know much more about current events in the U.S. then we do about events over there. They also know about censorship.

I understand the argument that "freedom of expression" is a fundamental right in the U.S. Indeed, without it, I might not be able to write this weblog. However, in China, it is not a fundamental right. This is not a human rights question, but a question of the relation between ideal and real.

Schooling and health care are universal human rights. But many people in the U.S. do not have health care. Does that mean the U.S. government is violating our human rights? If I have to work after high school instead of going to college in order to pay for food and living expenses, is that a violation of my human rights by the U.S. government?

In China, many pornographic and cult websites are blocked. Most news sites are not. Does this make a difference? Doesn't it matter what is blocked? Falungong is legally a (terrorist) cult in China, so its websites are blocked. Is this unreasonable?

In China, everyone knows the law is not to openly criticize the government in print, since everyone does it in daily conversation everyday (if you don't believe it, learn Chinese, go to Beijing, and take a few cab rides -- there are quite a few disgruntled cabbies). When a blogger violates this law, he/she must pay the price, just as anyone else does.

In reality, media changes nothing. The law is still the law.

If the House of Representatives wants to challenge Chinese law, that is fine. But why on earth are Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Cisco being raked over the coals? Aren't we violating their (human) right to do business?

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