Chinese authorities insisted an Internet filtering programme will go ahead despite a last-minute decision this week to postpone making it mandatory on new PCs, state media said on Thursday.
Just hours before the July 1 deadline, the government indefinitely froze a ruling that all computers sold in China must have the “Green Dam Youth Escort” software installed.
An official with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, however, told the state-run English language China Daily newspaper that the directive’s delay was only temporary.
“The government will definitely carry on the directive on Green Dam. It’s just a matter of time,” the unnamed official was quoted as saying
The comment contrasted sharply with messages in the state media only 24 hours earlier, suggesting the programme’s future was uncertain.
“No new date was given and the plan may drift into oblivion,” wrote the Global Times, an English-language paper published by the Communist Party in its Wednesday edition.
The government said the software was aimed at filtering out pornography, but computer experts found it was also programmed to suppress politically sensitive material, prompting criticism at home and abroad.
Analysts had said the postponement was an unprecedented climbdown in the face of pressure from domestic netizens, lawyers and even some state media, as well as foreign governments, rights and trade bodies.
China has a history of blocking websites carrying politically sensitive topics such as the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown on democracy protesters, the banned Falungong spiritual movement or criticism of the government.
The order that manufacturers either pre-install the software or include it on a disc accompanying new computers has also put an unwelcome international spotlight on China’s censorship policies, analysts said.
The policy was formulated too quickly and officials had not anticipated the backlash, said Mao Shoulong, a professor of public administration at People’s University in Beijing.