BEIJING China denied any state involvement in cyberattacks on Google and accused the United States of “double standards” as the row with Washington over Internet freedom rumbles on.
The latest salvo from Beijing came after the White House stated that US President Barack Obama was “troubled” by Google's claims that it had been attacked by China-based hackers.
The US Internet giant has threatened to abandon its Chinese search engine, and perhaps end all operations in the country over the cyberattacks. It has also said it is no longer willing to comply with Chinese government censors.
But China said the hacking charges were without foundation.
“(The) accusation that the Chinese government participated in (any) cyberattack, either in an explicit or inexplicit way, is groundless and aims to denigrate China,” said an unnamed spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology told state news agency Xinhua.
“We are firmly opposed to that,” said the spokesman.
“China's policy on Internet safety is transparent and consistent,” he added, saying that the country with the biggest online community was itself the “biggest victim” of hacking.
The Global Times - an English-language newspaper run by the People's Daily, the ruling Communist Partys mouthpiece, went even further, saying the United States itself was a major source of hack attacks.
“The US is the first country to launch cyber warfare,” it said in an editorial.
It claimed Washington had a “cyber army of 80,000 people equipped with over 2,000 computer viruses,” citing a US defence expert, Joel Harker.
It also pointed out at what it called “Washingtons continuous resort to double standards” and that Western criticism of China's Internet policies came “either out of ignorance of the facts, or a Cold War mentality.”
In another interview carried by Xinhua, a spokesman for China's State Council, or cabinet, said Beijing's efforts to regulate the Internet were legitimate and should be free from “unjustifiable interference.”
The spokesman said China was fully justified in its efforts to regulate what it deems to be harmful Internet content, noting that the policy had nothing to do with claims of “restrictions on Internet freedom.” The dispute with Google, which erupted less than two weeks ago, has threatened to rattle Sino-US ties, which are already dogged by a series of trade and currency issues, US arms sales to Taiwan and climate change.
White House deputy spokesman Bill Burton stated that Obama “continues to be troubled by the cybersecurity breach that Google attributes to China, “All we are looking for from China are some answers.”
Some groups in the United States are calling on Washington to challenge China's “firewall” before the World Trade Organisation.
Last week, Beijing lashed out at Washington after a speech by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Internet freedom, saying the address was “harmful” to bilateral relations.
“We urge the United States to respect facts and stop using the so-called Internet freedom issue to criticise China unreasonably,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu.
In her speech, Clinton lamented what she said were Beijing's increasing efforts to control what its 384 million web users can see -- a system known as the “Great Firewall of China.” Google has not yet stopped censoring search results on google.cn, but Google's Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said last week it would happen soon.
The US State Department stated US and Chinese diplomats had held several meetings to discuss the attacks on Google, which the firm said appeared aimed at cracking the email accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
“We are having high-level meetings and we will continue to have meetings and we will continue to press this issue aggressively,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said. “We will continue to seek an explanation from China.”
“A blanket denial that nothing happened we dont think is particularly helpful,” said Crowley.— AFP