Bill Gates blocks freedom of speech in China

English PEN has learnt that the Microsoft Corporation has aided the Chinese authorities in closing down the website of Zhao Jing, a blogger who had discussed a high-profile newspaper strike.

English PEN abhors this abuse of Mr Zhao’s freedom of speech and calls on Microsoft to offer Zhao Jing a full apology and to reinstate his blog. The case follows last year’s imprisonment of Shi Tao, when Yahoo co-operated with the Chinese government in disclosing details of his account usage. It marks a disturbing trend in the willingness of multinational corporations to aid and abet the Chinese authorities in their infringement of Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

A Microsoft Spokesperson said:

‘As a multi-national business, Microsoft operates in countries around the world. In line with Microsoft practices in global markets, MSN is committed to ensuring that products and services comply with global and local laws, norms, and industry practices. Most countries have laws and practices that require companies providing online services to make the internet safe for local users. Occasionally, as in China, local laws and practices require consideration of unique elements.

The MSN Space located at has been blocked to help ensure the service complies with local laws in China. The customer can start a new blog on MSN Spaces if desired. The content posted on member spaces is the responsibility of individuals who are required to abide by MSN’s Code of Conduct which can be viewed at

Jonathan Heawood, Director of English PEN, said:

‘It seems horribly ironic that a company which claims to be all about communication should collaborate with a repressive regime to block its customers’ freedom of speech.’

Hari Kunzru, author and internet specialist, said:

‘There is an enormous temptation for companies to “comply with local law” in China and actively cooperate with repression, to curry favour for large contracts. It’s not just search companies and software companies. Router hardware manufacturers are helping the Chinese censorship machine. Phone companies likewise. Everyone’s scrambling for the cash.’


Jonathan Heawood

Director, English PEN

020 7713 0023

07889 071711

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