• A protester against Internet censorship, wearing a computer as a helmet, is seen outside Hanover Congress Centrum.

A protester against Internet censorship, wearing a computer as a helmet, is seen outside Hanover Congress Centrum. (Photo : Getty Images)

In a rare public criticism of a sensitive policy that China's government has vigorously defended, a senior government adviser has warned that the country's Internet censorship is hampering both scientific research and economic development.

Luo Fuhe, the vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said: "Slow access to overseas academic websites have forced domestic researchers to buy software to circumvent China's site-blocking firewall, or even travel overseas to conduct research."

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He described that the length that Chinese researchers need to go to simply carry out their work is "not normal."

Luo gave these remarks on a gathering in Beijing for the national legislature's annual session, which was attended by national leaders and thousands of appointed representatives.

Luo is also the vice chairman of the China Association of Promoting Democracy. This is one of eight minor political parties that are permitted to shore up their democratic credentials. He felt free to speak up about Internet censorship.

Chinese officials just emphasize the need to respect the country's laws and rarely comment on Internet censorship.

The sophisticated Internet censorship tools of China have already blocked numerous foreign social media and news websites. Although this has helped monitor political topics and other sensitive issues, it also hampered the access to vast swathes of the Internet outside China such as research and university websites.

To circumvent this, a lot of Chinese use virtual private networks in order to scale the censors of the "Great Firewall of China."

He recommended that the government should allow full open access to sites frequented by researchers if they do not particularly contain political content. He also said that the government should determine the off-limits websites with greater "precision."

The authoritarian China government has recently renewed a push for a greater role in global Internet governance. Rather than basing it on free-flow information found in democratic societies, the government is basing it on global Internet governance with restrictions and regulations.