The Chinese Foreign Ministry lashed out Jan. 22 against a speech on internet censorship made the previous day by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, calling on the United States government “to respect the truth and to stop using the so-called internet freedom question to level baseless accusations,” reports the New York Times. Ma Zhaoxu, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a written statement that the criticism leveled by Mrs. Clinton was “harmful to Sino-American relations.” The statement signaled that China was ready to wrestle politically with the United States in the debate over internet censorship. The debate was brought to the fore in China last week when Google announced it might shut down its Chinese-language search engine, Google.cn, and curtail its other operations in mainland China if Chinese officials did not back down from requiring Google to censor search results. Until now, the Chinese government had been trying to frame the dispute with Google as a commercial matter, but in the aftermath of Mrs. Clinton’s speech, that attitude could be changing. Mrs. Clinton pointedly said that “a new information curtain is descending across much of the world” and identified China as one of a handful of countries that had stepped up internet censorship in the past year. Her speech was the first by a senior American official that put forward internet freedom as a plank of American foreign policy…

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staff and wire services reports