The fruit of Smith's tireless human-rights efforts was the introduction of the Global Online Freedom Act. Smith believes that "information technology ... should be a means of personal freedom, exploration of knowledge and communication, not a weapon to oppress people." He argues that dictatorships need two fundamental "pillars" to survive: propaganda and secret police. Misuse of the Internet supports both of these.
Smith is encouraging Google to get out of China. And he wants the Global Online Freedom Act, which has passed several committees in the House, to be brought to the floor for a vote. "U.S. companies should have no role in political censorship," he insists.
Also pushing for the legislation is Wei Jingsheng, who knows Chinese prisons all too well, and understands how unscrupulously manipulative the Chinese regime can be. Jingsheng was released from prison (after 14-1/2 years) in 1993, when China thought it might get the 2000 Olympics. When the Olympic bid failed, he was rearrested. He tells me he wants the Chinese people to be able to search the Internet because knowledge is, in fact, power. He does not mince his words. "The purpose" of the government spying on these dissidents, he tells me "is to destroy them." Google is "causing more danger to the people in China," Jingsheng says.
But, like Smith, Jingsheng doesn't mean to scold or otherwise sit in judgment. Really, he's simply emphasizing, armed with this new evidence, the reality of dictatorships, and his own history with this one. Addressing Google and "the many other companies" in its position, he says: "You tried to accommodate" China. And so, "you compromised. But the more compromise you made, the more aggressive the Chinese government would become. You must not compromise anymore. You have to cut off that relationship." He adds: "I really think the best way to protect those companies is to pass the (Global Online Freedom) legislation and this legislation would protect them from the violations of the Chinese government regime."
Jingsheng, now in the United States, represents all those voices back in his native land that we cannot hear -- that we may never hear, if the regime there has its way. Congress can, and should, stand with them.
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