BEIJING: A senior Chinese government adviser has warned that the country’s internet censorship is hampering scientific research and economic development, in a rare public criticism of a sensitive government policy.

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, Luo Fuhe, vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, told reporters in Beijing.

Luo’s remarks, reported by state media Saturday, came as national leaders and thousands of appointed representatives are gathering in Beijing for the national legislature’s annual session. Luo’s conference, the CPPCC, is the official advisory body to the legislature, the National People’s Congress.

China’s sophisticated internet censorship tools block numerous foreign social media and news websites, while discussion of political topics and other sensitive issues such as Tibet and Taiwan are routinely censored.

However, the same tools also hamper access to some research and university websites, whether inadvertently or by design.

In response, many Chinese employ virtual private networks to scale the censors’ blocks, known sometimes as “the Great Firewall of China.”

China’s authoritarian communist government provides little public information about its censorship regime, although it recently renewed a push for a greater role in global internet governance based on restrictions and regulations rather than the principle of free flow of information found in democratic societies.