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[liberationtech] USTR seeks detailed info on China Internet restrictions through WTO rules

Cynthia Wong cynthia at
Wed Oct 19 10:38:05 PDT 2011

The information requests made by the United States are reproduced below:

1. Websites of service suppliers based outside of China are sometimes  
inaccessible in China, which can prevent those companies from  
marketing products and supplying services to the Chinese market. The  
United States would like to better understand China’s rules governing  
website blocking so that service suppliers based outside of China may  
adopt appropriate policies to avoid encountering this problem.

a. Who or what ministry is responsible for determining if and when a  
foreign website should be blocked in China?

b. What are the guidelines and criteria for blocking access to foreign  
websites? How often are these guidelines and criteria changed or  
published? Where are these guidelines published? Are they made public  
in advance of their implementation? Which ministries are responsible  
for drafting them?

c. What is the process for implementing a restriction on a website?  
How does the relevant entity determine whether an entire website  
should be blocked or only services or content deemed illegal?

d. Is the blocking implemented directly by the government, or  
indirectly by Internet service providers (ISPs) and/or  
telecommunications companies?

e. If blocking is carried out by ISPs or telecommunications companies,  
are these actions typically implemented through written governmental  
orders? If so, which governmental organs are authorized to issue such  

f. How can a service supplier without a physical presence in China  
determine if access to their website is or will be blocked in China?  
To whom should such a supplier direct questions if there are any  

g. Can an affected service supplier appeal a decision to block access  
to their website? If so, what is the procedure for appealing, and  
where is that procedure published? Can a service supplier use the  
court system to appeal a decision to block access to their website? If  
so, has any such appeal ever been successful?

h. Is the same process used to prevent access to foreign and domestic  
websites providing similar services in China? If the process is  
different, please describe the differences.

2. The United States understands that the State Council established a  
State Internet Information Office (SIIO) in May 2011. The United  
States is interested in better understanding the functions of the  
office and whether it is the appropriate interlocutor for foreign  
businesses that have questions or concerns regarding website  

a. What are the responsibilities and authorities of the SIIO?

b. Will the SIIO handle licensing or other approval processes for  
Internet service providers or make decisions regarding filtering of  
foreign websites? If so, please describe which of these processes the  
SIIO will manage.

c. Should companies contact the SIIO or some other entity when they  
have questions regarding China’s Internet filtering laws, regulations  
and policies? If the SIIO is the appropriate contact, which office or  
individual should they contact? If not SIIO, which ministry and office  
should companies contact?

d. Which categories of objectionable conduct are managed by each  
ministry with responsibilities or authorities for managing Internet  

3. Based on information provided by the SIIO earlier this year, the  
United States understands that foreign websites are sometimes  
inadvertently blocked when they share an IP address with a website  
which China has deemed harmful.

a. Can you explain how such inadvertent blockages occur?

b. Are there other ways that China can filter material deemed harmful  
to avoid such inadvertent website blockages?

c. Would Chinese authorities consider it reasonable to notify the  
owner of a web hosting service that one or more sites that the service  
hosts are being blocked in China, so that the web hosting service can  
ensure that other legitimate sites are not inadvertently blocked? Are  
Chinese authorities already doing this?

d. What steps should companies take when they become aware of such  
inadvertent blockages to resolve any issues and ensure their services  
are accessible in China?

4. The Measures for the Administration of Internet Information  
Services, issued by the State Council on September 25, 2000, describe  
nine categories of content which Internet information service  
providers may not disseminate. The Provisions on the Administration of  
Internet News Information Services, issued by the State Council and  
Ministry of Information Industry on September 25, 2005, add two  
additional categories of content which may not be transmitted. Given  
the broad nature of these categories, the United States is seeking  
greater clarity on the content that falls within them.

a. Are there any laws, regulations, policies or other guidance that  
establish criteria to determine when content fits into these eleven  
categories? If so, where can a service supplier access these measures?

b. Are government requests or orders to filter specific terms online  
ever communicated directly to Internet information service providers?  
If so, how are these directives communicated? Are these requests or  
orders made public? Does an Internet information service provider have  
the right to obtain a written order prior to implementing such a  

c. Are the same terms subject to filtering made available to Internet  
information service providers inside China and outside China?

5. According to the White Paper on the Internet in China,  
“telecommunication business operators and Internet information service  
providers shall establish Internet security management systems and  
utilize technical measures to prevent the transmission of all types of  
illegal information.”

a. How is illegal information defined in this instance?

b. Is a written governmental order required for either a private  
corporation or a relevant authority to block the transmission of  
illegal information?

c. What types of technical measures are service suppliers expected to  
use to prevent transmission of the illegal information?

d. Do authorities in China approve specific technical measures? If so,  
which ministry does this?

e. Are the technical measures employed by operators to block the  
transmission of illegal information applied automatically to domestic  
and foreign traffic? If not, how are they applied?

f. Does Internet content from outside of China go through a separate  
monitoring process for illegal information than Internet content  
created inside of China? If so, how do the two processes differ?

Cynthia M. Wong
Director, Global Internet Freedom Project
Center for Democracy & Technology

CDT  •  1634 I Street NW  •  Suite 1100  •  Washington, DC 20006
E cynthia at P +1-202-407-8835 F +1-202-637-0968

Keeping the Internet Open, Innovative & Free!

Follow our work on Twitter @CenDemTech @cynthiamw

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