The Chinese government has pulled the plug on some Web sites it stopped blocking in the run-up to last summer’s Beijing Olympics.
Hong Kong-based Asiaweek reported for example that part of its Web site as well as those of the New York Times, the Voice of America and the BBC had been blocked for the last 2 weeks.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Jianchao recently reasserted the government’s right to censor Web sites that were in violation of its law. Apparently there are laws prohibiting web sites from suggesting there are 2 Chinas for example.
“I hope that the Web sites in question will be able to self-regulate, and not do things that will violate Chinese law, and for the sake of both sides, develop conditions for Web site cooperation,” Mr. Liu wrote on the Foreign Ministry’s Web site.
Chinese officials tend to ramp up Internet censorship during periods of political or economic stress. The Great Economic Crisis of 08-09 has slowed even the vaunted Chinese economy, and some officials fret that rising unemployment might trigger social unrest.
China’s is not the only government that blocks access to certain Internet sites. Australia and Great Britain recently cut Internet distribution of child pornography for example, while Germany prohibits search engines from posting sites associated with Nazi activity.
But according to Rebecca MacKinnon, a specialist in Internet issues at Hong Kong University, China defines Internet crime far more broadly, imposes censorship far more capriciously, and offers no appeals process for sites that have been blocked.