WikiLeaks chief blasts Chinese Internet censorship

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has blasted China as the "technological enemy" of his whistleblower website because of its aggressive Internet censorship, in comments published Thursday.

Assange has enraged the United States with his site's release of leaked diplomatic cables, and the Australian's defence team believe efforts are under way to send him to the US where they claim he could face the death penalty.

But China, with its vast Internet censorship system known as the "Great Firewall", was the site's most feared foe in cyberspace, the 39-year-old told Britain's New Statesman magazine.

"China is the worst offender" when it comes to censorship, said Assange, who is currently in Britain fighting attempts to extradite him to Sweden over claims of sexual assault.

"China has aggressive and sophisticated interception technology that places itself between every reader inside China and every information source outside China.

"We've been fighting a running battle to make sure we can get information through, and there are now all sorts of ways Chinese readers can get on to our site."

China's system of censorship is designed to filter out any information deemed sensitive or politically harmful by the country's Communist government.

Social networking site Facebook, video-sharing giant YouTube and microblogging site Twitter are among those blocked by Chinese censors.

In the interview Thursday, conducted by veteran journalist John Pilger who is a prominent supporter of the Australian hacker, Assange also claimed he had files on media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

"If something happens to me or to WikiLeaks, 'insurance' files will be released," Assange was cited as saying.

"There are 504 US embassy cables on one broadcasting organisation and there are cables on Murdoch and News Corp," without going into more detail on what they contained.

Assange insists that attempts to extradite him to Sweden are politically motivated and linked to WikiLeaks' activities.

He has been living at the country estate of a friend in eastern England since being released on bail on December 16, nine days after his arrest by British police on a Swedish warrant.

His defence team have argued that if he is sent to Sweden he could then be extradited to the US and there was a "real risk" he could face the death penalty.

The whistleblowing website has also released classified documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

US soldier Bradley Manning is in military custody in the United States awaiting trial for having allegedly obtained and leaked the cables.

A US court has reportedly subpoenaed the Twitter accounts of four WikiLeaks supporters as part of a criminal investigation into the leaks.

© 2011 AFP

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