Tuesday, April 7, 2009

China alleged to have again blocked Youtube access

by M. Ulric Killion

It is reported that “the video sharing website Youtube” is working to restore access for users in Mainland China. News sources report that “the Chinese government apparently imposed a block on its service.” As a result, mainland internet users have been unable to access the Youtube site since Monday (March 23, 2009), which apparently follows “the posting of a video alleged to show Chinese police beating Tibetan protestors” (Agencies, 2009).
A spokesman for California-based Youtube confirmed the service had been blocked but said there had been no explanation from the Chinese authorities. "Youtube has been blocked in China since yesterday," Scott Rubin told the AFP news agency on Tuesday. "We do not know the reason for the blockage, and we're working as quickly as possible to restore access to our users in China." . . . . The blockage comes as government officials in China labelled as "fake" a video posted on Youtube allegedly showing police beating a Tibetan demonstrator to death (Agencies, 2009).
The official Xinhua news agency, citing an unidentified official with China's Tibetan regional government, “said that the video came from sources tied to the government-in-exile of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, and was pieced together from different places. . . .” Xinhua said “the footage claimed to show an incident during last year's violent protests in Tibet against Chinese rule, but that the situation had been faked. . . ." 

Following the apparent block on Youtube, it is reported that the “China's foreign ministry said it was not aware of any restrictions on the site and the Chinese consulate in San Francisco told AFP it did not have any information on the issue” (Agencies, 2009).
Speaking to reporters in Beijing, Qin Gang, a ministry spokesman, rejected suggestions that the government was afraid of the internet. "Many people have a false impression that the Chinese government fears the internet. In fact it is just the opposite," Qin said. He said China's 300 million internet users and 100 million blogs showed that "China's internet is open enough, but also needs to be regulated by law in order to prevent the spread of harmful information and for national security". Chinese authorities keep a tight rein on the internet and frequently bock access to websites the government finds objectionable for political or moral reasons (Agencies, 2009).
In Mainland China, this is actually the second reported blocking of Youtube access. In March 16, 2008, the Associate Press earlier reported an alleged, or apparent, blocking of Youtube access, which was supposedly due to dozens of videos about protests in Tibet appearing on the Youtube site. 

During this earlier period,  in March 2008, according to the Times (2008), “YouTube, the video-sharing website which has become a home to amateur footage of news events, has been blocked to Chinese users since Saturday, and there are also reports that the news pages of Yahoo!, the internet portal, have been made inaccessible.”
In addition, the entire Guardian website has been closed down as of today, and other sites - including Times Online - have had access to their coverage of recent events in Tibet severely restricted. Popular sites which assimilate news from different sources - such as Google News - have been subject to what is known as 'keyword filtering', where a Chinese internet user attempting to load a page which contains words such as 'Tibet' or 'Dalai Lama' will see the site stall. Times Online has also learned that the editors of some of the most popular 'forum' - or bulletin board - sites in China have been directly contacted by government officials and told not to publish any content relating to the recent protests. Flickr, the photo-sharing website, Wikipedia, and the LA Times, the US newspaper, are among the other sites to which access has been cut off. . . . The websites of most British newspapers are for the most part accessible, but since Friday, for instance, all articles by the Times Beijing correspondent, Jane Macartney, have been blocked to readers in China. One comment on danwei.org today read: ‘I'm in the south of China, and many news sites containing Tibet-related articles are blocked with connection reset errors. This includes the entire Guardian website, as well as all news links from Yahoo’ (Times, 2008).
It goes without saying that China’s government must handle the issue of internet access with the utmost due care for obvious reasons. This is because the issue of internet access involves China’s relation with other countries, including the image that China sought to present to the world by hosting the Beijing Olympics. For instance, there is the earlier observation made by Reporters Without Borders (RWB), an organization that campaigns for freedom of the press. As Reporters Without Borders earlier observed in March 2008, "Yet again the Chinese government is trampling on the promises it made linked to the Olympics and has preparing the ground to crackdown on the Tibetan revolt in the absence of witnesses."
Agencies, March 25, 2009.
Associated Press, March 26, 2008.
Jonathan Richards, China blocks YouTube, Yahoo! over Tibet, Times Online, March 17, 2008.
Reporters Without Borders – for press freedom.

Copyright © Protected - All Rights Reserved M. Ulric Killion, 2009.

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