Photo from longtrekhome’s.
Just as Sino-US tensions seemed to be easing after months of discontent, the US has risked irritating Beijing a little more. This week, the Washington Post reported that the US State Department has decided to fund the Global Internet Freedom Consortium (GIFC), an Internet freedom group run largely by F4lun G0ng practitioners.
The department’s offer of $1.5 million aims to provide software to circumvent Internet censorship. The decision was reached after three years of lobbying in Washington.
The GIFC was set up in 2001, aiming to allow F4lun G0ng practitioners to access the teachings of the sect’s leader, Li Hongzhi, allegedly based in New York City. But recent developments have warranted the consortium’s expansion and greater funding. The use of its software, Freegate and Ultrasurf, skyrocketed during Iran’s election protests in the summer of 2009, with Iranian netizens using the censor-evading technologies to access Twitter and organise further demonstrations.
Those supporting continued US pressure China to loosen its grip on Internet freedom will be happy with this week’s decision. But, as C. Custer over at China/Divide argues, the move is not a particularly clever one on the States’ part. By allying with a group affiliated to a sect the Chinese government sees as a major threat to one-party rule, the US may well trigger Beijing’s further rejection of Internet freedom.
The ‘one step forward, ten steps back’ theme of Sino-US relations continues.