China denied involvement in Internet attacks and defended its online surveillance practices as lawful on Monday after the United States urged Beijing to investigate a computer attack against search engine giant Google.
China’s anti-hacking policy is transparent and consistent, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said.
“Any accusation that the Chinese government participated in cyber attacks, either in an explicit or indirect way, is groundless and aims to discredit China,” an unidentified ministry spokesman said, according to a transcript of an interview with the official Xinhua News Agency posted on the ministry’s Web site on Monday.
Xinhua also cited the State Council, China’s Cabinet, saying China’s regulation of the Internet was rooted in law and criticizing what it called interference in China’s domestic affairs.
The Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper, meanwhile, accused the U.S. government of strictly controlling the Internet at home while urging other countries to build an “Internet freedom utopia.”
“In reality, this ‘Internet freedom’ that it is marketing everywhere is nothing but a diplomatic strategy, and only an illusion of freedom,” the paper said.
Beijing’s increasingly heated remarks follow U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s criticism last week of countries engaging in cyberspace censorship, including China. Clinton also urged Beijing to investigate computer attacks against Google that led to the search giant’s Jan. 12 threat to pull out of China.
Google said it had uncovered a computer attack that tried to plunder its software coding and the e-mail accounts of human rights activists protesting Chinese policies. The company traced the attacks on its computers to hackers in China, but hasn’t directly tied them to the Chinese government or its agents.
A Chinese Internet security official questioned the allegation, saying Google had not reported its complaints to China’s National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team.
“We have been hoping that Google will contact us so that we could have details on this issue and provide them help if necessary,” Zhou Yonglin, the team’s deputy chief of operations, said in an interview with Xinhua posted on the team’s Web site.
Mr. Zhou said the team logged attacks on 262,000 Chinese computers last year by hackers implanting malicious software such as Trojans, which can allow outside access to the target’s computer. More than 16 percent of the attacks came from computers located in the U.S., he said.
Following an initial low-key response to Ms. Clinton’s speech, Chinese spokesmen have gone on the counterattack. The Foreign Ministry on Friday said her remarks damaged bilateral relations, while a Chinese state newspaper said Washington was imposing “information imperialism” on China.
Internet control is considered a critical matter of state security in China, and Beijing is not expected to offer any concessions in the dispute with Google. Beijing promotes Internet use for commerce, but heavily censors content it deems pornographic, anti-social or politically subversive and blocks many foreign news and social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook, and the popular video-sharing site YouTube.