Members of the US Congress have added their voices to the growing swell of public fury at the cave-in by major US corporations to the diktat of communist China on issues of censorship.

Members of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus accused four US firms of putting profits before American principles of free speech.

It is not only the latest culprit, Google [WAMN: 02-Feb-06], that has incurred lawmakers' opprobrium. Microsoft, Yahoo, and Cisco have also been slammed for swapping democracy for dollars with the commissars.

All four corporations failed to send a representative to a Washington hearing into the issue. Two - Microsoft and Yahoo - defended their actions by pleading they did not have the power to force change on governments.

Then came the well rehearsed justifications, pleading that their curtailed services still "enabled far wider access to independent sources of information for hundreds of millions of individuals in China and elsewhere."

Accused Representative Tom Lantos, the senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee: "There has been a string of disturbing incidents in which US-based internet companies have bowed to pressure from Beijing.

"These massively successful high-tech companies, which couldn't bring themselves to send representatives to this meeting today, should be ashamed. They caved in to Beijing for the sake of profits."

Congress will hold a more formal inquiry later this month, at which the absentee corporations have agreed to attend. But there is one company likely to be conspicuous by its absence.

It is not known if News Corporation has received an invitation to be present. Five years ago, the media giant likely performed the biggest kow-tow of all - an accommodation with the comrades when they permitted the mainland China launch of its Star TV satellite platform. [WAMN: 20-Dec-01].

Given Rupert Murdoch' widely publicized remark back in 1993 that satellite TV posed "an unambiguous threat to totalitarian regimes" - and given the comrades' obsession with suppressing discussion of such inconvenient subjects as Tiananmen Square and the existence of Taiwan - the reconciliation process almost certainly rests on a covert censorship agreement.

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff