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China Web-filtering Software Facing Legal Challenges

06-17 11:56 Caijing

A lawyer required the government to make public all information concerning the process involved in the purchasing of the filtering software.

By staff reporter Qin Xudong

(Caijing.com.cn) Challenges to the government's order to ship all PCs in China with a mandatory web-filtering software, Green Dam-Youth Escort, have so far focused on consumer rights, competition law and the rules governing government purchasing.

On June 12, Beijing-based lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan filed an application with the Ministry of Finance, requiring it to make public all information concerning the process involved in the purchasing of the filtering software. Liu said his action is aimed at strengthening supervision of government procurement.

On the same day, The Open Constitution Initiative, a nonprofit organization that provides legal advice to the public, also submitted a letter to the State Council, China's cabinet, claiming the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) had overstepped its power by imposing an “unrequested” product on consumers.

The MIIT said it is requiring all computers sold in China starting July 1 to be shipped with Green Dam Youth Escort, a software filters sites designated as harmful, controls time spent online, manages computer game playing and records internet usage to help parents monitor their children's online habits.

The ministry contracted out the order last year, buying one-year rights to the software for 41.8 million yuan from Jinhui Computer System Engineering Co and Dazheng Language Processing Science Co. It will not charge PC users for the software.

The Green Dam software has also provoked protests from homosexual groups, who claim the software automatically blacks out some well-known gay websites.

Lawyers have generally been driving the challenge, basing their arguments on specific laws or demanding more disclosure. Last week Wei Yongzhen, a professor at Hong Kong Shue Yan University, and Zhou Ze, associate professor at China Youth University for Political Science, said in a letter to the State Council that the new requirement violates the Government Purchase Law, the Unfair Competition Law and the Antimonopoly Law. 

Li Fangping of Beijing's Ruifeng Law Firm has also urged the MIIT to hold a public forum to explain its actions. 

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