China's Netphobia

As President Clinton reiterated in last week's address before Congress, it's important not to isolate China. But that country's own government, determined to police the channels of information, does enough of that all by itself.

The latest evidence: Beijing's ongoing tilting with the Internet. Chinese entrepreneur Lin Hai has been handed a two-year sentence for trading e-mail addresses with a group in Washington that publishes VIP Reference, an electronic newsletter aimed at political dissidents within China.

Such exchanges of addresses are a staple of e-commerce. Mr. Lin and his defenders say he was just trying to build his contacts as a Web-page designer in China. The authorities saw him building the ranks of the politically disaffected. But that, too, is something the Chinese government seems determined to do all by itself.

You can't open up the information highway to China, as that government has encouraged, and try to shut numerous lanes at the same time. The Chinese, especially the young, want to get on with the opening.

Making "examples" of individuals like Lin only highlights Beijing's sad example of a government afraid of its people and their thirst for progress.

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