- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 1, 2009

BEIJING | In a rare reversal, China’s government gave in to domestic and international pressure and backed down Tuesday from a rule that would have required personal computers sold in the country to have Internet-filtering software.

Just hours before the rule was to have taken effect, the government said it would postpone the requirement for the “Green Dam” software. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said it made the decision partly because some PC markets were having difficulty meeting the deadline. It did not say whether the plan might be revived.

The change of course averted a possible scuffle with Washington. Top U.S. officials had protested the plan after it was imposed abruptly in May, calling it a barrier to trade. Angry Web users circulated online petitions protesting Green Dam, while industry groups warned the software might create computer security problems.

The controversy reflected the conflict between the communist government’s desire to control information and China’s high-tech ambitions. The country has an increasingly informed, vocal public and tighter links to companies that create urgently needed jobs and tax revenue.

The decision was a “victory for China’s civil society,” said Li Fangping, a Beijing lawyer who had demanded a public hearing on the plan.

“Many citizens worked together and voiced their opposition to the forced installation of this filtering software and forced the government to at least think more deeply about it,” Mr. Li said. “We hope now that they will go ahead and completely drop this order.”

News of the announcement spread in China quickly via Twitter and the Chinese mini-blogging site Fanfou. Some bloggers said they expect the government to look for a way to carry out Green Dam that attracts less attention.

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