China Appears to Tighten Internet Access Around Tiananmen Anniversary
“The state’s online censorship and surveillance is as severe and powerful as it can be, probably more now than at any other time,” said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California, Berkeley. The Tiananmen anniversary, combined with the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic itself, the 50th anniversary of Tibet’s uprising, the 10th anniversary of the ban on the Falun Gong movement and growing uneasiness connected to the global financial crisis have all led the government to reportedly shut down thousands of Web sites since the start of the year.
Tiananmen, a large plaza in the heart of Beijing, was the site of a large-scale, weeks-long student protest in 1989 that the Chinese government eventually squelched through military force. Estimates on the number of deaths vary from 300 to 3,000.
In early April, Internet users inside China found the video-sharing Web site YouTube inaccessible for days after footage of Chinese military police allegedly beating Tibetan monks was posted. In January, the Chinese government launched what it explained as an effort to remove vulgar and indecent content from the Web, closing sites it claimed contained pornographic or otherwise offensive material. China also launched a four-month crackdown on unapproved Internet cafes starting June 1, state media reported in late May.
Internet users are finding that some sites devoted to social messaging forums and blogs are either intermittently inaccessible, or possibly permanently removed, including the popular liberal blogging site Bullog.cn, which was shut down in early January.