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Monday, March 17, 2008

YouTube Blocked in China

China blocked access to Google-owned YouTube during the current unrests among those fighting for more Tibet independence, several sources report. YouTube is currently hosting many clips on the issue with user reports, as a search for e.g. lhasa protests shows. quotes a YouTube spokesperson saying that YouTube “is looking into the matter, and working to ensure that the service is restored as soon as possible.”

A Boing Boing reader named Adam writes that other media are occasionally censored too in China:

I am visiting Beijing on business, and staying at a hotel that caters to Westerners. There have been reports that China was loosening controls on the media ahead of the Olympic games, in order to give visitors the impression that the media is unrestricted, but that is not the case in the last day.

While watching CNN in my hotel room, the station goes dark during the top-of-the-hour news flash on the riots, then returns when the synopsis of “what’s to come” is given about other stories, and then goes dark again while the coverage switches to Lhasa.

Coverage returns with the anchor asking users to send in their first-hand reports to, after all mention of the incident is over. Same results for BBC as well.

The China Daily newspaper I grabbed from the lounge has a small article on the bottom of the front page, titled “Dalai Lama behind sabotage”, and states that his “clique” has “organized, premeditated, and masterminded” the beatings, looting, and arson, which “has aroused the indignation of, and is strongly condemned by, the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet.”

Foreign media, like CNN, are also not freely allowed inside Lhasa, Tibet, to report on the situation. Reuters reports that while the Chinese “carefully controlled media” itself is “largely silent” on the Tibet issue, many Chinese bloggers oppose more Tibet independence. “Most foreigners have been brainwashed as far as this issue is concerned,” one user is quoted to have said. While Reuters says that only “a rare few” Chinese blog posts differed with the official party line on the issue, it’s worth keeping in mind that bloggers who heavily disagree might have their voice shut down, anong perhaps greater risks.

Chinese authorities also control search engines, like, which agreed to self-censorship of specific domains. Many foreign sites have been blocked, as the following search queries – which all result in one or more sites missing from the result page (including “accidental,” collateral missing results) – show:

china olympics, chinese olympics, 2008 olympics, protests, dalai lama, tibet, free tibet, freedom of press, democracy, censorship, radio free asia, rfa, human rights, rights, china human rights, police, police brutality, tibetan protesters, tibetan protest, tibetan people, tibetan, tibet buddhism, buddhist monks, peace, free speech, violence, media censorship, monasteries, tibet 1959, tibet 1959 uprising, tibetan centre for human rights and democracy, lhasa china, lhasa protests, lhasa demonstration, riots, ...

Even if shows relevant results among their self-censored ones, it is unclear whether Chinese searchers will be able to follow-up to all of those specific sites, or see the results page in the first place, due to different parts of the so-called Great Firewall of China.

US president George Bush, who is himself attacked by some for not defending human rights in cases of torturing detainees or killing of convicted criminals, asked China to have a dialog with the exiled Tibetan Dalai Lama. Incidentally, as AFP reports, Bush’s administration removed China from a human rights blacklist just three days before the current violent repression of protests.

As IDG news service reports, YouTube isn’t the only Google property censored in China at the moment; Google News, their report states, is blocked too. The article does not go into details as to whether this refers to international or Chinese While the former removes only the so-called hate sites, the latter is self-censored by Google to also exclude certain undisclosed news publications which oppose the government stance.

[Thanks Hebbet! Boing Boing content is Creative Commons-licensed.]


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