Reports on a rare public critique of the Communist Party’s internet policy by a senior official have been removed.

Luo Fuhe, vice-chair of the country’s top political advisory body – the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) – introduced a proposal to improve the loading speeds of overseas websites on March 1, before the start of the country’s top political meetings.

A report on Luo’s proposal on the CPPCC’s news distribution site and an opinion piece criticising western coverage of his proposal from state tabloid The Global Times are no longer available. His comments were reported by overseas media including the Guardian and the BBC.

luo fuhe
Luo Fuhe. Photo:

A leaked directive posted by US-based China Digital Times issued on Saturday ordered all websites to delete reports on Luo’s “Proposal to Improve and Increase Speed of Access to Foreign Websites.” China Digital Times omitted the name of the issuing body to protect its source, and notes that the wording it published may not be exact, as directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors.

Luo said the slow speeds of overseas websites creates a huge impact on the country’s economic and social development and scientific progress.

30 minute loading times

“Visiting the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation website or many overseas universities’ websites from within the country is very slow,” he said, according to a cached version of a report on the CPPCC’s news distribution site.

”Click to view: The deleted report (Chinese)”

中国网北京3月2日讯(记者 张宁锐 吴知音) “第一个我们想谈一下境外网站访问速度的提案。” 全国政协大会即将开幕,全国政协副主席、民进中央第一副主席罗富和昨日下午特别向记者介绍民进中央的重点提案,其中一份是《关于改进和提高境外网站访问速度的提案》。罗富和表示,目前在我国境内访问境外网站的速度有愈加缓慢的趋势,这将给我国的经济社会发展和科学研究等方面造成极大的影响,需要引起高度关注,应通过增加国际网络出口宽带及设置境外网站访问权限负面清单等方式提高境外网站访问速度,满足开放发展的需要。








“It takes at least 10-20 seconds to open each page, and some overseas universities’ sites need at least half an hour to load.”

He added that some researchers must rely on software to conduct searches outside of the firewall in order to complete their research tasks, which is not normal.

The press conference last week was held to introduce the key proposals of Luo’s party, the Chinese Association for Promoting Democracy (CAPD) – one of the country’s eight official parties that follow the leadership of the ruling Communist Party. It preceded the meetings of the National People’s Congress, China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament, and the CPPCC, the top advisory body to the Congress.

The two meetings opened last weekend in Beijing. The sessions are a chance for CPPCC delegates to put forward proposals, which may be put to congress if they get enough support from NPC deputies and CPPCC members, though the CPPCC members do not have voting rights.

National People's Congress npc beijing great hall
Photo: Lukas Messmer/HKFP.

The Communist Party oversees a vast network of technological and legislative controls – commonly referred to as the “Great Firewall” – which routinely block foreign websites including Google, Facebook and Twitter. Content seen as politically sensitive, violent or morally dubious is censored. Controls have further tightened under the leadership of President Xi Jinping.

The CAPD’s proposal suggested allowing access to non-political websites, especially those used by researchers such as the websites of overseas universities and research institutes, while determining which websites are off-limits by compiling a blacklist that is closely monitored, as well as filtering sensitive information on search engines and technical sites to allow some usage of these sites.

It also recommended improving hardware to increase speeds such as constructing undersea cables and encouraging service providers to improve network speeds.

In January, the government announced a campaign to “clean up” internet service providers and crack down on virtual private networks (VPNs) used to get over the great firewall, making it illegal to provide VPN services without government approval.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.