For a brief period last week, the Chinese government hijacked foreign search engines. Chinese Internet users trying to search on Google, Yahoo and Microsoft were redirected, first to a Chinese government anti-pornography Web site and then to the Chinese search engine Baidu.
There is speculation in China that the blocking may have been intended to prevent Chinese citizens from learning of the Dalai Lama's historic meeting with President Bush. But with discussion of the hijacking forbidden on Chinese blogs and news sites, the truth may never be fully known.
The Chinese action comes just weeks after Burma's military dictators abruptly shut down the Internet in that country in an attempt to block the world from seeing the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. When the Internet plug was pulled, the brutality escalated, with the nation's revered Buddhist monks paying a high price for their bid for freedom.
Repressive countries continue to try to have it both ways: They crack open their borders just enough to take advantage of the Internet's economic potential while enacting draconian restrictions to ensure that the medium cannot be used to foster political freedom.
Democratic governments understand the connection between human rights and Internet freedom. They have been quick to condemn the Internet crackdown in Burma and China and the lack of Internet freedom in much of the world.