Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), who chairs the House International Relations Committee’s Subcomittee on “Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations,” has announced that he is going to hold a hearing on February 16, 2006 to “examine the operating procedures of US internet companies in China.” The immediate cause for the hearing is the report that Google has launched a web search engine for China that blocks access to information about Tibet, human rights, and other topics considered sensitive by the Chinese Government.

Tibet groups have expressed outrage at this action by Google. “Google’s participation in the Chinese government’s program of repression and information control renders the company motto “Don’t be evil” a terrible joke,” said a statement from the Students for a Free Tibet on January 25, 2006.

In a press statement on January 25, 2006, announcing his hearing, Congressman Smith criticized Google “for caving to the demands of the Chinese government by agreeing to censor its own search results.”

“It is astounding that Google, whose corporate philosophy is ‘don’t be evil,’ would enable evil by cooperating with China’s censorship policies just to make a buck,” said Smith, who has been a leading human rights advocate since being elected to Congress. “China’s policy of cutting off the free flow of information is prohibitive for the growth of democracy and the rule of law. Many Chinese have suffered imprisonment and torture in the service of truth ? and now Google is collaborating with their persecutors.”

“Internet companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft attract some of the best and brightest minds to develop cutting edge technology that can be used for good throughout the world,” said Smith. “The ability to communicate openly is the key to unlock the door to freedom for those who cannot feel its touch, and these companies can help to provide that.”

According to the statement, Congressman Smith has invited various US companies to testify at the hearing, including: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco. Also scheduled to testify are: State Department Senior Advisor for China and Mongolia James Keefe, State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Communications and Information Policy David Gross, Julien Pain from Reporters Without Borders and Harry Wu from the LaoGai Research Foundation.

“Years ago we fought to give Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia the capacity to empower the voices of freedom throughout communist countries and look at the success that followed,” said Smith, who authored the law to authorize Radio Free Asia to broadcast 24 hours daily. “Americans need to empower those who seek the path of democracy, not stifle their ability to speak.”