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Montreal Gazette: Nortel helps build 'Great Firewall of China' (MG)

October 24, 2001 |   Jack Aubry

Thursday, October 18, 2001

Nortel Networks is working hand in hand with the Chinese government to build "the Great Firewall of China," at least in part to target and repress political dissidents using the Internet, a new report concludes.

Former Liberal cabinet minister Warren Allmand, president of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, will release today in Montreal the damning report, titled China's Golden Shield: Corporations and the Development of Surveillance Technology in the People's Republic of China. "The Chinese state has found an extraordinary ally in private telecommunications firms located primarily in Western countries. Many companies, including notably Nortel Networks, until recently Canada's largest firm, are playing key roles in meeting the security needs of the Chinese government," said the report.

The centre is releasing the report to coincide with the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting in Shanghai this weekend, to be attended by Prime Minister Jean Chretien and U.S. President George W. Bush.

International pressure for China to clean up its human-rights act appears to have lessened since the [party's name omitted] country agreed to take part in the broad coalition fighting terrorism.

China has used the war on terrorism to characterize Tibetans as "terrorists," something the Canada Tibet Committee calls "an excuse to stifle legitimate dissent and peaceful struggles for human rights and democracy."

Tina Warren, a spokesman for Nortel, said the company had yet to receive the report and judged it "inappropriate" to comment until it is reviewed.

The 40-page report, written by researcher Greg Walton, said Nortel and other firms are helping China build "a more sophisticated system of content filtration at the individual level."

In the report's acknowledgements, Walton credits several online activists by their Internet monikers, including the Hacktivismo! Project, OxBlood Ruffin, Drunken Master, cDc, y Oda and "so many others - on both sides of the firewall - who very sensibly choose to remain anonymous."

The report added, "Old-style censorship is being replaced with a massive, ubiquitous architecture of surveillance: the Golden Shield. Ultimately the aim is to integrate a gigantic online database with an all-encompassing surveillance network."

The network would include speech and face recognition, closed-circuit television, smart cards, credit records and Internet surveillance technologies.

China has already arrested numerous people for Internet-related crimes, from supplying E-mail addresses to Internet publications to circulating pro-democracy articles.

The report suggests Nortel's privacy statement for the Internet, which states it will not sell, rent or share personal data with any other organization, appears at odds with its work in China.