China has a long and authoritarian history of suppressing free speech even though some academics now believe that it has been right all along on such suppression on the Internet. Just when you thought China could not get more bold and outrageous in its anti-free speech actions, it surprises you. This week China sanctioned Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz for criticizing its treatment of minority Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
The two senators were listed by the Chinese government as targets of the “corresponding sanctions” with an array of others like Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Now, mere political criticism of China is deemed to “seriously interfere in China’s internal affairs.” It is another example of how China would reshape free speech in areas as it seeks to expand its economic and political hold over areas like theAsia-Pacific area.
It’s not clear what the new sanctions against U.S. officials will entail.
China was outraged by the statement of the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that “The United States will not stand idly by as the CCP [Chinese Community Party] carries out human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang, to include forced labor, arbitrary mass detention and forced population control, and attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith.”
One of the common aspects of state censorship is that officials become more obsessed and sensitive to criticism that it cannot silence, even from other countries.
The Atlantic published an article by Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith and University of Arizona law professor Andrew Keane Woods calling for Chinese style censorship of the internet. They declared that “in the great debate of the past two decades about freedom versus control of the network, China was largely right and the United States was largely wrong” and “significant monitoring and speech control are inevitable components of a mature and flourishing internet, and governments must play a large role in these practices to ensure that the internet is compatible with society norms and values.”
This is not the Internet censorship that Goldsmith and Woods so readily embraced but it is an example of implications of embracing China’s approach to dissenting opinions and actions. Presumably, China already censors the views of both senators and these human rights organizations on the Internet as part of that “mature and flourishing internet.”
In the meantime, China continues to censor stories about Hong Kong and this week declared opposition polls a national security violation.