Beijing • A group of Chinese bloggers asked the United States to take up the cause of Internet freedom in an unusual meeting Saturday with Secretary of State John Kerry.
One by one, the bloggers voiced concerns to Kerry, who arrived here Friday to discuss regional issues with China’s leaders, that the ability of Chinese citizens to gain access to information was under siege and that the country’s prospects for becoming a democracy were uncertain at best.
"Will you get together with the Chinese who aspire for freedom" and help "tear down this great fire wall that blocks the Internet?" asked Zhang Jialong, a reporter for Tencent Finance, which reports on financial issues. Zhang, who was detained for three days in 2011 because of his posts about conflicts between the artist Ai Weiwei and the Chinese authorities, asked Kerry to look into reports that U.S. companies had helped the Chinese government establish control over what websites Chinese citizens could access.
Wang Keqin, an investigative reporter who U.S. officials said had been forced to leave an economic publication because of his critical reporting, said the cause of Internet freedom was "going backward."
Ma Xiaolin, a former correspondent with the official news agency Xinhua who is a co-founder of a blogging site, said websites had become the main sources of news and expressed hope that the Chinese government would ease its Internet controls if U.S. relations improved.
If China becomes a real partner of America, he said, "the Chinese government can feel more confident."
Seeking to reassure the bloggers, 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 U.S. 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," Kerry said.
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