According to the mouthpiece of the Chinese government, the People newspaper, the opening meeting of the World Internet Conference was held in Beijing on July 12. Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory letter, hoping to build a more “open and inclusive” cyberspace.

In his congratulatory letter, Xi Jinping stated that establishing the World Internet Conference International Organization is an important measure to adapt to the development trend of the information age. He added that it is to “Build a cyberspace that is fair and equitable, open and inclusive, secure and stable, rich and vibrant so that the Internet can bring more benefit for every people around the world.”

However, is China’s Internet as open and inclusive as Xi Jinping hopes? Liu Lipeng, a former moderator of the social networking site Sina Weibo, does not believe this. In an interview with RFA, he said: “His (Xi Jinping) aspirations for the Internet are meaningless. For example, China has introduced a concept called Internet Sovereignty. China’s Internet is also isolated from the world. Still, they opened the “World Internet Conference,” so every word in the phrase “World Internet Conference” is meaningless, not the world, not the Internet, not even a conference.”

The Chinese regime’s website said on July 12 that about 150 people would participate in China’s World Internet Conference, including representatives from 18 countries and regions. International organizations, famous experts, scholars at home and abroad, and people in charge of relevant government agencies and departments.

However, the Chinese government media did not publish a list of the participating countries.

RFA said on the Internet that a list of participating countries was circulated, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Palestine, Russia, and other countries where the ruling government controls the Internet in each case. Still, the RFA reporter was unable to verify the list independently.

The reporter sent a letter to the contact mailboxes provided by the World Internet Conference on the official websites of China and the United Kingdom, but the letter was considered “spam.”

Graham Webster, the editor of the “Digital China Project” of Stanford University in the U.S., said that, from the available information, it was not clear who these “members” in attendance were. It is not even possible to determine whether any country is a member.

Webster said in a written interview with RFA: “I think until now it’s mostly unclear what this so-called ‘international organization’ is. The Wuzhen Summit annual World Internet Congress, after garnering considerable attention for the first few years, after which it was relatively obscure, with no reputation. They (World Internet Conference) might be able to gain more influence, but there are no guarantees.'”

Liu Lipeng commented on the World Internet Conference in the past: “In addition to some Chinese Internet giants such as Tencent, Alibaba, NetEase, they will also find a number of communications ministers from countries like Sri Lanka, and some CEOs of real international Internet companies, but now conceivably not anymore, because no one is willing to swim in China’s mire.”

News of the inaugural meeting of the World Internet Conference being held in Beijing led to many mocking comments from netizens, with The Epoch Times citing some of them as follows:

A netizen with the nickname “Guozhanshi” asked: “A country that has to bypass firewalls to get on Twitter and is facing judgments about cyber freedom, what is the right to hold the World International Internet Conference?”

The account “ran ran” commented: “A regime with such a high firewall even hosts the World Internet Conference. It’s hard to blame because it is a black and white reverse terrorist organization, and there is not a limit in that.”

Internet user DianaZh said: “It’s shameless for a country that only has a local network to host the World Internet Conference.”

Nickname “LPX2019” mocked: “Latest news, the list of participating countries published on Weibo is already 404 (ironically, because posts unfavorable to the government in China will be deleted, and shows not found, or 404) Internet firewalls have lost interest. They have derided the role of firewalls in isolating the world. This conference is called the World Internet Conference, the name is obviously not realistic at all. It should be called the World Non-Internet Conference.”

The account “Dianyan xiaoge” said: “The opening meeting of the World Internet Conference was held in Beijing, the title sounds funny, still need to bypass the firewall to see the list of participating countries. … Although circumventing the firewall may result in a penalty, there is no other way.”

According to information from China’s Baidu, the World Internet Conference is a large-scale conference organized annually by the Internet Information Office of the Chinese regime and the Zhejiang Provincial Government. The event is in the historic scenic town of Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, where China’s World Internet Conference was first held in 2014.

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