US Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed his support for online freedom in China during a meeting in Beijing with Chinese bloggers concerned about a crackdown by authorities on Internet discourse.
Last year China's Communist Party renewed a heavy-handed campaign to control online interaction, threatening legal action against people whose perceived rumours on microblogs such as Sina Weibo are reposted more than 500 times or seen by more than 5,000 people.
Rights groups and dissidents have criticised the crackdown as another tool for the party to limit criticism of it and to further control freedom of expression.
The government says such steps are needed for social stability reasons and says every country in the world seeks to regulate the Internet.
During an approximately 40 minute discussion with Kerry on Saturday, the bloggers focused on the need for internet freedom, human rights, China's territorial dispute with Japan and even President Barack Obama's travel plans, according to a US reporter who attended the session on behalf of journalists travelling with Kerry.
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