September 7, 2009 8:38PM

China Moving Wrong Way on Internet Freedom

While the growth of the market in China has helped open up personal space and limit control of individual lives, the Beijing authorities still attempt to limit freedom of expression. The Internet continues to be a prime target.

Reports the New York Times:

News Web sites in China, complying with secret government orders, are requiring that new users log on under their true identities to post comments, a shift in policy that the country’s Internet users and media have fiercely opposed in the past.Until recently, users could weigh in on news items on many of the affected sites more anonymously, often without registering at all, though the sites were obligated to screen all posts, and the posts could still be traced via Internet protocol addresses.

But in early August, without notification of a change, news portals like Sina, Netease, Sohu and scores of other sites began asking unregistered users to sign in under their real names and identification numbers, said top editors at two of the major portals affected. A Sina staff member also confirmed the change.

The editors said the sites were putting into effect a confidential directive issued in late July by the State Council Information Office, one of the main government bodies responsible for supervising the Internet in China.

If the government of the People’s Republic of China hopes to become an increasingly important international power, it should begin trusting its people to take on greater responsibility in deciding their own affairs. The justifications offered for the Communist Party’s monopoly of power are only going to grow more threadbare and unsustainable over time.