- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 10, 2008

An Internet freedom group founded by computer experts from the Falun Gong spiritual movement is handing out software to congressmen, senators, journalists and anybody else headed to the Olympics who wants to browse Internet sites blocked by the Chinese government.

The technicians claim their software can defeat any firewall devised by the Chinese government to limit the flow of information from the outside world to Web surfers in China, Burma, North Korea and other authoritarian countries.

In the days leading up to the Aug. 8-24 Olympics, reporters working out of the Olympic press center complained that China was blocking access to sensitive sites promoting Tibetan independence and other hot-button issues in violation of an earlier promise that journalists covering the games would have open access to all Internet sites.

Though some of the blocks have since been removed, reporters continue to complain that many sites remain inaccessible.

Falun Gong says there’s no need to worry with its free software.

“You can try the tools here [in the U.S.] first to get acquainted with the interface. Then you can circumvent the censorship and continue to visit any Web site when you are in China,” Tao Wang, director of operations, said.

The group demonstrated its software, available on the Web site www.internetfreedom.org, on Capitol Hill on Thursday. Of five available pieces, Mr. Wang recommends Ultrasurf and Freegate for regular Web browsing and Gpass for multimedia use, such as online chats with people back home.

Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, advised Olympic visitors and others to avoid any interaction with Falun Gong, which he characterized as “an anti-China political organization bent on undermining social stability in China and overthrowing the Chinese government.”

“Over the years, it’s been making every effort to preach cult doctrines, cheat the public, fabricate lies vilifying the Chinese government and engage in activities to sabotage China-U.S. relations,” Mr. Wang said.

“For such an organization, people can simply imagine what it can say about China even without referring to the various propaganda tools it has created,” he said in an apparent reference to the software and other tools used by the group to recruit new members.

“We sincerely hope that the American people see through the true nature of Falun Gong, stay away from the organization and avoid being deceived and used by it,” Mr. Wang said.

Falun Gong claims it is a benign spiritual group dedicated to helping its practitioners achieve enlightenment through a combination of breathing and other meditation techniques.

As for the software, the group can’t guarantee the present versions of tools will work for the entire Olympics, because Chinese engineers will most likely be busy circumventing the software.

The group urges its users to keep checking for updated versions of its software, confident that its engineers can keep one step ahead of their Chinese government adversaries.

In addition to allowing access to filtered sights, the software’s creators say it will also help Chinese users surf the Web without worrying about being watched by authorities.

The Chinese Embassy’s Mr. Wang warned Internet users to be cautious.

“Sufficient facts have shown the evil nature of Falun Gong and its harmfulness to the society and people’s human rights. To protect the legal rights and interests of the general public from its harms, the Chinese government outlawed the organization, which was endorsed by the general Chinese public.”

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