Everyone waited for the president’s reply today in the first ever Presidential town hall of China, as the question of Twitter and its use in China was raised here. China has the highest number of people in the world hooked on the net who were tweeting away happily before July, when the Chinese government blocked the extremely famous social networking sites Twitter and Facebook. Fault? Rising criticism after the riots in the Xinjiang province. Solution? Block the site. Simple!
This question was asked over the Internet to the US Embassy. The question was read out aloud by Ambassador Jon Huntsman “In a country with 350 million Internet users and 60 million bloggers, do you know of the firewall?… should we be able to use Twitter freely?”
The president replied with a hint of humor “Let me say that I have never used Twitter,” he said. “But I am a big believer in technology and I’m a big believer in openness when it comes to the flow of information. I think that the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable. They can begin to think for themselves. That generates new ideas. It encourages creativity.”
He added this little note to show that criticism of his policies in the U.S. makes him a better leader, which is very true.
“I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear. It forces me to examine what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis to see, am I really doing the very best that I could be doing for the people of the United States,” Mr. Obama said.
All this, with a little footnote “So I’m a big supporter of not restricting Internet use, Internet access, other information technologies like Twitter. The more open we are, the more we can communicate.”
Obviously we look forward to Chinese responses to president’s statement. Let’s look at some responses
Mranti posts: “Except for the Internet Freedom Q&A, Obama’s Shanghai Town Hall has failed miserably.”
Lianyue writes: “The truthful question re: Internet saved Obama.”
Uponsnow: “Obama talking about freedoms and Chinese students looking nervous as if getting caught watching porn.”
Wangpei: “Obama wants to address to the future of China. No, Mr. President, they just a bunch of youth cadres.”
Sumomojean: “Second questioner is Huang Lihe, secreatry of Communist Youth League at Tongji University.”
Mywc: “during the dialogue, Chinese people were “represented” four times, Taiwanese once. The only one who has the right to represent American people did so zero time.”
Finally, Wenyunchao : “More than 30 Chinese websites republished Xinhua’s (the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Government) transcript of Obama’s answer re: Internet censorship.”
Some of these are really funny remarks. I’m sure President Obama would love to hear them.