China's thirst for social networks will help the country's citizens smash through its rigid state control, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt has claimed.
He said during a conference in London on Monday that popular sites such as Weibo and WeChat would help to liberalise the People's Republic.
Schmidt spoke of a meeting he had had with leaders of the country's Communist Party earlier this month. According to reports, he told President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang that the Chinese government's efforts to stifle public opinion online would ultimately prove to be fruitless.
In recent months, China has passed stringent censorship and libel legislation on social media, including the imposition of penalties for anyone who creates "online rumours" that are reposted more than 500 times.
"They’re heavily regulated but to me the most interesting thing about talking to the Government, from the President all the way through to the governors, was they are obsessed about what is going on on the internet," Schmidt said, according to the Daily Telegraph.
"So they passed these laws, which Mr Xi pushed through, which are horrific, are that if you have more than 500 people you ‘incite’ you are heavily criminally liable. Everyone in China has more than 500 followers because there are so many Chinese people so it essentially puts everyone at risk.
"Weibo and WeChat will move. You simply cannot imprison enough Chinese people when they all agree to something. You won’t be able to stop it even if you don’t like it."
The Google man added that the huge drift of citizens towards social networks would lead to a "liberalisation of the country". ®