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Chinese Authorities Continue to Shut Down, Block Web Sites


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During the past three months Chinese authorities have taken the following actions to shut down and block Web sites in an attempt to silence critics and restrict citizens' access to information:

 

On October 21, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported that Internet users trying to visit the Wikipedia Web site (an online encyclopedia) since October 18 got an error message referring to temporary connection problems for unknown reasons. RSF said that Chinese authorities had previously blocked Wikipedia in June and September 2004 because of dissident political content. Reports on January 13 and 21 from the Voice of America and Boxun (both in Chinese), respectively, stated that the site was still inaccessible in China as of the end of that month, and CECC staff testing indicates that the site remains inaccessible as of mid-February.

 

On November 3, RSF reported that authorities in Hainan province shut down Wang Yi's blog (http://zhivago.tianyablog.com) just days after it was nominated for the "freedom of expression" category in a blog contest being organized by the German public radio station Deutsche Welle. The shutdown also occurred less than a week after Wang posted a story that police in Chengdu had detained at least 10 people who were peacefully protesting the government's handling of burials and funerals. RSF cited Wang, a well-known Chinese intellectual, as saying he was "very annoyed" with Tianya, the Internet company hosting his site and with the Hainan authorities for shutting down his blog. Wang moved his blog to blogchina.com, but that company also shut down his blog, according to a December 22 Radio Free Asia report (in Chinese). Blogchina.com agreed to restore Wang's blog, however, after he threatened to file a lawsuit against them, according to a January 15 Epoch Times transcript of a Radio Free Asia report. Wang has been a frequent target of China's censors. In 2004 he became one of six writers whom propaganda officials decreed could not write for or appear in China's state-run media, according to a June 16, 2005 International Herald Tribune article. In July 2005 the General Administration of Press and Publication upheld the decision of Sichuan provincial government censors to confiscate hundreds of books privately published by Wang. The Sichuan Press and Publication Administration confiscated over 900 books that Wang had printed privately to give to friends.

 

On December 14, Infoworld Magazine reported on its Web site that, after having been blocked for more than three years, Google's Blogger service became accessible in China in October, only to be blocked again in early December. Infoworld quoted a Google spokeswoman as saying: "We have heard reports that users in mainland China may have difficulty accessing Blogger.com." According to the report, another blogging service, Six Apart's Typepad, was also inaccessible from Beijing at that time.

 

On October 18 and November 25, Chinese authorities shut down the "Perspectives" Web site, according to a report by activist Liu Xiaobo published by Boxun on January 15. Authorities shut down the Web site despite its operator, Wu Wei (who also goes by the name "Ye Du") having registered the site (originally called the "Democracy and Freedom Forum") with government authorities in early October in an attempt to comply with Chinese law. Chinese authorities had forced the site to close down over 40 times since its founding over three years ago. The site had to register with the government or risk being shut down as part of the Ministry of Information Industry's (MII) crackdown on private Web sites. The MII is conducting this ongoing campaign (which it says has entered a period of "severe sanctions" for unregistered Web sites) pursuant to the Registration Administration Measures for Non-Commercial Internet Information Services issued in March 2005. According to Liu, despite the government having canceled the Web site's registration, Wu reopened the site, but authorities shut it down again on November 25. Liu also reported that police in Guangdong have been intimidating Wu's landlords, resulting in Wu being evicted at least five times in the last year.

 

The CECC noted in its 2005 Annual Report -- Freedom of Expression -- Monitoring, Jamming, and Blocking of Information section, that Chinese agencies block the Web sites of many human rights, educational, political, and news-gathering institutions without providing public notice, explanation, or opportunity for appeal. According to a study by the OpenNet Initiative, Chinese authorities operate "the most extensive, technologically sophisticated, and broad-reaching system of Internet filtering in the world" to prevent access to "sensitive" religious or political material on the Internet. The report also stated that authorities utilize "a complex series of laws and regulations that control the access to and publication of material online.

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