Western News Sites Blocked in China

Western News Sites Blocked in China

China’s already restrictive internet tightened further ahead of this week’s 30th anniversary of the June 4, 1989 crackdown. The annual constriction took place against the backdrop of similar long-term trends, including the expansion in April of an existing block on Wikipedia’s Chinese-language edition to cover the entire site. Although some measures were relaxed after the sensitive date had passed, others have remained in place, or may even have been added. The Intercept’s Ryan Gallagher reported on Friday that the site is one of several now found to have been blocked.

On Friday, people in China began reporting that they could not access the websites of The Intercept, The , the Washington Post, HuffPost, NBC News, the Christian Science Monitor, the Toronto Star, and Breitbart News.

It is unclear exactly when the censorship came into effect or the reasons for it. But Tuesday marked the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and Chinese authorities have reportedly increased levels of online censorship to coincide with the event.

Charlie Smith, co-founder of GreatFire.org, an organization that monitors Chinese government , said that the apparent crackdown on Western news sites represented a significant new development and described it as a “censorship Black Friday.”

“This frenzied activity could indicate that the authorities are accelerating their push to sever the link between Chinese citizens and any news source that falls outside of the influence of The Party,” said Smith, referencing the ruling Communist Party regime. [Source]

GreatFire.org’s Twitter account had more details, noted the lifting of another block on , and pointed out uncertainty about the timing of others:


Some other results for Guardian urls suggest that interference may have begun earlier.

Another tweet added Asahi Shimbun to the list.

Meanwhile domestic censorship continues a broader tightening even aside from the anniversary and in fields that were formerly relatively relaxed. The Financial Times’ Christian Shepherd reported one example on Thursday:

At least 10 popular financial analysis blogs on social media app WeChat had all present and past content scrubbed, according to screenshots posted by readers. The Weibo accounts of two non-financial popular bloggers, including Wang Zhian, a former state broadcast commentator who wrote about social issues, were also blocked.

[…] Once deemed largely safe from sweeping censorship, economic analysis and reporting has in recent years found itself increasingly in the censors’ sights as growth, a key source of Communist party legitimacy, slows.

[…] The crackdown on commentators writing about the economy comes during extensive efforts by China’s leadership to promote its favoured narrative on the trade dispute with the US. [Source]

Years of mounting pressure have driven many former out of the industry. The New York Times’ Jane Perlez reports on one prominent recent exit:

[…] Mr. Liu [Wanyong] earned the nickname “Tibetan Mastiff” for his perseverance at the China Youth Daily, a paper run by the Communist Party but with a reputation for sometimes bending the rules.

More than a decade later, Mr. Liu, 48, has quit . More than just a personal decision, however, his departure from the newspaper where he worked for 21 years represents the end of in China, a profession left in tatters by the pressure of Communist Party orthodoxy under President .

Mr. Liu was about the last person standing of a group of hard-hitting journalists who worked at places like Southern Weekly and Caixin, the standard bearers of truth-seeking journalism that ebbed and flowed before Mr. Xi came to power.

The departure of Mr. Liu meant investigative journalism would never be the same, a social media account run by Chinese reporters declared. He was the pillar of the trade, it said, adding: “The most important figure in investigative journalism has disappeared.”

[…] “There is hardly any reporting in China now,” said Zhan Jiang, a former professor of journalism at Beijing’s Foreign Studies University. “We have returned to the propaganda of the Mao era.” [Source]

A similarly chilled climate is being felt in other spheres such as entertainment. Variety’s Rebecca Davis reported this week on new official guidelines emphasizing that this is set to continue:

1905 Film, an outlet affiliated with one of China’s state-run broadcasting channels, said in an analysis posted to its social media account Wednesday that, “in the future, strict control of the film and TV industry will be the norm.” That’s because works of entertainment “are not just cultural or consumer goods – they are also carriers of mainstream ideology, and thus of enormous concern to the [Communist] Party and the country. Film and TV work cannot merely be approached from a commercial, market-based or entertainment perspective; it must be undertaken with strategic thinking from the national level, from the same battle lines that the country itself is fighting from.”

The ability to align oneself with the country’s ideological goals will now “become the basis for employment,” the analysis said.

It gave no further information about specific reforms or measures. Such guiding documents issued by Chinese authorities are often vague, but they provide an indication of which way the official winds are blowing. Last year, China put the Communist Party’s Propaganda Bureau in charge of the nation’s film industry, which analysts see as a means of tightening control over the already strictly censored medium. [Source]

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