- Technology sold by Microsoft to the Chinese government
has been used by Beijing to censor the internet, and resulted in the jailing
of its political opponents.
- An Amnesty International report has cited Microsoft among
a clutch of leading computer firms heavily criticised for helping to fuel
'a dramatic rise in the number of people detained or sentenced for internet-related
- The human rights group has slated Bill Gates's company
for an 'inadequate response' to escalating abuses in China. 'We don't believe
this is appropriate or responsible,' said Mark Allison, an Amnesty International
researcher who wrote the report. '[Microsoft] should be more concerned
about human rights abuses and should be using its influence to lift restrictions
on freedom of expression and get people out of prison. It is worrying that
they don't seem to have raised these issues.'
- Amnesty believes Microsoft is in violation of a new United
Nations Human Rights code for multinationals which says businesses should
'seek to ensure that the goods and services they provide will not be used
to abuse human rights'.
- China is the world's most aggressive censor of the internet.
Websites are banned for using words such as 'Taiwan', 'Tibet', 'democracy',
'dissident' and 'human rights'. Amnesty has recorded dozens of cases of
political opponents jailed for circulating material offensive to the Chinese
- Microsoft told The Observer: 'We are focused on delivering
the best technology to people throughout the world. However, how that technology
is used is with the individual and ultimately not in the company's control.'
- Since China was admitted to the World Trade Organisation
two years ago a succession of big US technology firms have been supplying
the government. Internet use in China is close to 80 million, though this
is less than 10 per cent of the adult population.
- Nortel Networks said in September 2003 it plans to invest
$200 million in the next three years to strengthen its research and development
capabilities in China.
- Cisco Systems, which has also been named in the Amnesty
report, has in the past denied that it tailors products for the Chinese
market and has said: 'If the government of China wants to monitor the internet,
that's their business. We are politically neutral.' But Allison said: 'In
terms of the internet the Chinese government is arresting people who are
doing nothing more than expressing themselves.
- It was confirmed last week that Gates is to receive an
honorary knighthood. The firm is embroiled in tough negotiations over supply
of software to the NHS.
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