China has around 650 million connected Internet users

China's cyber chief defends 'Great Firewall'

Lu Wei, China's cyber chief, has rejected criticism about the country’s internet censorship policies.

He said that if the policies were too stringent, China’s online markets would not be as successful as they are.

Experts have said the country’s inaugural World Internet Conference last year in Wuzhen, south-west of Shanghai, was part of Beijing's effort to shape global Internet governance rules.

Wei made the case for censorship ahead of this year’s conference which will include a speech by President Xi Jinping and be attended by prime ministers from Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

He defended the blocking of some websites and censoring of online posts noting that it was not hampering the country’s expanding presence in global online services.

"Indeed, we do not welcome those that make money off China, occupy China's market, even as they slander China's people. These kinds of websites I definitely will not allow in my house," Wei told reporters at a briefing on the conference.

He reiterated earlier vows that China would pick and choose its friends when it comes to the Internet.

"I, indeed, may choose who comes into my house. They can come if they are friends," Lu said.

China has the world's largest population of Internet users, around 650 million, and is home to some of the biggest Internet firms such as Tencent Holdings, Baidu Inc and Alibaba Group Holding.

However, it also has the world's most extensive online censorship system, known elsewhere as the ‘Great Firewall of China’.

The government aggressively censors the Internet, blocking many sites it deems could challenge the rule of the Communist Party or threaten stability, including Western sites such as Facebook, Google's main search engine and the Gmail service.

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