Kerry Presses China to Ease Internet Controls

BEIJING (AP) -

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday he urged Chinese leaders to support internet freedom and promised to look into whether American companies help Beijing curb access to online material.

“Obviously, we think that Chinese economy will be stronger with greater freedom of the internet,” Kerry said at a meeting with bloggers following talks with Chinese leaders.

Kerry met earlier with President Xi Jinping and other senior officials, to underscore the Obama administration’s commitment to refocusing U.S. foreign policy on the Asia-Pacific. He urged Beijing to convince neighboring North Korea to return to stalled nuclear disarmament talks.

During the 40-minute meeting Saturday, the bloggers appealed to Kerry to support Chinese human rights activists and freer use of the internet.

Communist leaders encourage internet use for education and business but use an extensive system of monitoring and filters to try to block access to material deemed subversive or obscene.

Zhang Jialong, who reports on finance for Tencent Finance, part of China’s largest social media company, asked whether the United States will get together with the “Chinese who aspire for freedom” and help “tear down the great internet firewall.” He complained that U.S. companies were helping Beijing block access to internet use and social media services.

Kerry said that it was the first time he had heard complaints U.S. companies were helping the Chinese government control internet access and that he would check into it.

“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.