China’s cancellation of the 7th World Internet Conference raises concerns

China has decided to cancel the hosting of the 7th World Internet Conference, which was scheduled to be held this month. However, officials have not explained the reason, but the private sector is concerned. Internet insiders have disclosed that numerous overseas companies have reacted coldly to the invitation extended by China, either on the pretext of an epidemic or by changing their attitude towards China.

Zhao Zeliang, deputy director of China’s State Internet Information Office, said at a news conference on Monday (2) that the seventh World Internet Conference would be cancelled and instead the World Internet Conference – Internet Development Forum would be held in Wuzhen, Tongxiang, Zhejiang province, from 23 to 24 this month.

However, the authorities did not explain the reason for the cancellation of the conference, Zhao Zeliang only introduced this year there will be three aspects of new changes. Firstly, the 7th World Internet Conference will be cancelled and the Internet Development Forum will be held instead, he said. Secondly, under the epidemic, the number of guests, forums and duration of the conference will be adjusted. Third, the forum will be “offline + online” form of the activities, set up in Wuzhen live venue, unable to go to the scene of the guests will be online to participate.

Clamp down on the country of the Internet to host the World Internet Conference

Numerous netizens have commented on China’s cancellation of this month’s Internet conference. Shandong University graduate and finance scholar Commander Commander told Radio Free Asia on Tuesday (3) that China, which has hosted the World Internet Conference for many years, is keeping its citizens away from the world: “Guests at the conference, including many Western countries, have expressed disappointment that they see China moving further and further away from the free state of the Internet and turning into a very authoritarian Internet terror state,” he said. It is ironic that the world’s largest Internet conference has been hosted by China for so long that it is a commentary on the state of suppression of press freedom in China. So many people don’t want to go to this conference.”

According to Chinese Internet insiders who wished to remain anonymous, the China Internet Information Office (CNIO) had been receiving notifications from attendees from various countries as early as three to four months ago that they could not travel to the 7th World Internet Conference because of the impact of the new coronavirus. As a result, the authorities decided to reduce the scale of the conference, changing the name of the W3C to the Internet Development Forum.

A netizen, Tianya Fanxian, left a comment on the Internet saying, “The World Internet Conference hosted by China is actually the “How to Control the Internet Conference”. The discussion was about the technology to control the Internet, to turn it into an interconnected network of one country. Such conferences are inherently pointless and the participants have nothing to offer.” Some netizens also scoffed, “It should be called the World Internet Not Connected Town Hall.”

Zhuang Weiran, an independent scholar from Zhejiang, argued that since China has a network firewall, people in the country are not on the world Internet, but a local area network. The irony, he says, is that “China hosts a conference every year that claims to be called the World Internet Conference, and the attendees can find out the problem, which is that people are forced to cross an artificial wall put up by the Chinese government. It’s actually a great irony that this has become a topic of discussion,” he said.

China’s dominant Internet conference continues to tighten rhetoric

The Chinese government-led World Internet Conference, which has been held for six years, is considered by the international Internet industry to be a conference where the Chinese government raises the current problems with the international Internet and its counterpart policies to the global industry. During each conference, China’s Internet surveillance is not relaxed, but tightened.

Mr. Chang, a netizen, said to this station that the authorities’ control over the Internet is getting stricter and stricter: “The authorities are very nervous about netizens commenting on the country’s leaders and do not allow any criticism or ridicule, and one netizen was sentenced to six months in prison for saying a few ridiculing words about the leaders inside WeChat.”

The World Internet Conference is hosted by China’s National Internet Information Office and the government of Zhejiang Province, and has been held annually since 2014 and has been attended by Xi Jinping and a number of international science and business leaders. The event is set to take place in Wuzhen, Tongxiang City, Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province. Each year, a large number of visitors gather around the conference venue to express their dissatisfaction with government officials to foreign attendees.