New Chinese Cybersecurity Group Taps “Great Firewall” Creator as Leader

A new cybersecurity group in China, to be led by a key creator of the country's censorship infrastructure, has wide support from the nation's major businesses. But activists have raised questions about the group, which they say prioritizes business security over human rights.

A new Chinese trade group hopes to create a bridge on cybersecurity issues between the private sector and the tightly controlled country—and its first leader has just the pedigree to make an impact.

The Cyber Security Association of China, announced last week in Beijing, will sport leadership from one of the country’s most prominent technology figures. Fang Binxing, the man most closely associated with the country’s internet censorship infrastructure (better known as the “Great Firewall”), was elected as the head of the association, which has 257 founding members.

Among them are some of China’s most prominent companies, including the tech firms Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, as well as a number of research universities, including National University of Defence Technology and Peking University.

However, human rights experts are skeptical of the new association. In comments to the South China Morning Post, human rights researcher Joshua Rosenzweig said that the formation of the country’s first cybersecurity group made more business sense than ethical sense.

“I’m not surprised at all that companies are lining up to be part of this effort, but I’m disappointed,” Rosenzweig said. “From a business perspective, I guess that’s probably understandable, because they’re trying to avoid political risks. But when it comes to the responsibility to respect human rights, they failed.”

The organization’s launch comes at a time when the Chinese government is still considering taking action on foreign nonprofits, floating legislation that would require outside nongovernmental organizations to be vetted by the security police before they work in the country.

Also, a couple of weeks before the launch, FBI Director James Comey visited Beijing and met with a senior government official in charge of political and legal affairs, who pressed the United States to work more closely with China on cybersecurity issues.

“China and U.S. law enforcement departments should implement the important consensus reached between the two heads of state and enhance cooperation in fighting terrorism, cyber crime, and pursuing Chinese fugitives and their illegal assets,” Chinese senior security official Meng Jianzhu said in comments to Xinhua.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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