(New York) – The CEOs of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and other major technology firms should press Chinese President Xi Jinping and Internet czar Lu Wei to reverse their expansion of surveillance, censorship, and data collection, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter.
Chinese leaders and United States technology leaders will meet at the US-China Internet Industry Forum and related meetings in Seattle on September 22-23.
“Some of these US firms have been at the forefront defending online freedom of expression and privacy rights in the United States,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “They also have real leverage in China, and need to step up now to achieve similar protections for netizens of that country.”
Human Rights Watch urged that the firms resist Chinese government demands that companies store Chinese user data within China. Human Rights Watch has long reported on corporate complicity in internet censorship in China, and Internet companies’ behind-the-scenes cooperation with Chinese authorities that led to jail terms for journalists and activists.
“As the Chinese government works to control Internet content while monitoring and punishing online critics, US firms should publicly commit to avoid enabling this censorship and surveillance,” Roth said. “Beijing wants foreign companies to do its dirty work, so corporate leaders should stand together to resist.”
Human Rights Watch also called on the Chinese government to scrap provisions in its proposed Cybersecurity Law that require Internet companies to practice censorship, register users’ real names, localize data, and aid government surveillance, in a formal submission to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.