Inspired, perhaps, by the success of netizens’ great diplomatic appeal to bring Sherlock back on the air, a group of Chinese bloggers took it to the next level during a meeting on Saturday with US Secretary of State John Kerry, asking for the United States to take up the cause of Internet freedom in China, The New York Times reports.
The 40-minute-long meeting was held a day after Kerry met with Xi Jinping and other top leaders in Beijing, where he prodded them to pressure North Korea back to nuclear disarmament talks.
“Will you get together with the Chinese who aspire for freedom” and help us “tear down this great firewall that blocks the Internet?” Zhang Jialong, a reporter for Tencent Finance, asked during the meeting. Zhang was detained for three days in 2011 for posts he’d written regarding conflicts between Ai Weiwei and Chinese authorities.
He asked Kerry to look into reports that US companies had helped China’s government establish controls over censored websites in China, according to the Times.
Another blogger named Ma Xiaolin, a former correspondent with state-run Xinhua News Agency, added that if relations with the US improved and if China were to become a real partner of America, “the Chinese government can feel more confident.”
Seeking to reassure the bloggers, Mr. Kerry said that human rights were a perennial issue in his meetings with Chinese officials and that he had repeatedly taken up the cause of press and religious freedom. He said he had not heard the charges that American companies had helped the Chinese authorities maintain control over Internet access, but promised to look into the matter.
“Obviously, we think that the Chinese economy will be stronger with greater freedom of the Internet,” Mr. Kerry said.
Wang Chong, the director of a major web portal in China, inquired how the US could help Xi build democracy.
“A slow progress is taking place,” Kerry said, noting that it was import an for US officials to maintain open dialogue their counterparts in China. “No one country can come crashing in to say: ‘Do this our way. It is better,’ ” Kerry said.
One reporter said in the meeting that he was concerned about “prisoners of conscience,” citing the case of Xu Zhiyong, the human-rights activist who was sentenced to four years in prison last month under charges of “gathering crowds to disrupt public order”.
“We constantly press these issues at all of our meetings, whether it is in the United States or here, at every level, and we will continue to do so,” Kerry said.