Cisco denies censorship role in China

Staff Writer
26 May 2008


A Cisco Systems executive told a Senate subcommittee that comments in an internal document about China's goal to 'combat' a religious group did not reflect the company's views on censorship.

The PowerPoint presentation, which described China's technology status, included a slide that referred to goals to stop network-related crimes, guarantee the security and services of a public network and 'combat 'Falun Gong' evil religion and other hostiles.' Falun Gong is a spiritual movement banned by the Chinese government, which considers it a dangerous cult.

'In no case does the document propose that any Cisco products be provided to facilitate the political goals of the government and no reference to applications of our products to the goals of censorship or monitoring,' Cisco general counsel Mark Chandler told the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on human rights and the law.

The subcommittee heard testimony from Cisco, Google and Yahoo executives about how US internet and technology companies do business with certain governments that censor and suppress the free speech of their citizens.

Chandler said that Cisco regrets that comments from a Chinese government official were included in the 2002 presentation, which also mentioned other technology projects.

However, Shiyu Zhou, deputy director of the humans rights group Global internet Freedom Consortium, said Cisco's presentation offered planning, construction, technical training and other services to help China improve law enforcement and security network operations.

US firms have come under an enormous amount of scrutiny and criticism as they do business in countries, such as China, that actively limit citizen access to information on the web or who have used personally identifiable information to track down dissidents.

Since the start of 2007, Google services, including its YouTube video sharing, blogging and social networking sites, have been blocked in whole or in part in 27 countries, such as China, Turkey and Myanmar, said Nicole Wong, Google's deputy general counsel.

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